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Style Periods Essay, Research Paper

Throughout its history, music has developed into cycle. This cycle is a return of fundamental and traditional ideas of an earlier time transposed into the present. It represents a ?style revolution? in which a simple structure further develops to become a more complex system. At this point a ?revolution? begins and a return to the simple, the more traditional form flourishes again.

As a chain of events, the cycle is extremely prominent during the change of time periods between the Renaissance and Baroque. In 1581, a group of philosophers, musicians, artists, intellectuals, and scientists all met in Florence to discuss where society was headed. Resulting from what became known as the Florentine Camerata, a shift from the current complex system of the renaissance to that of a simple structure, which imitated ancient Greek society. Those such as Girolamo Mei, Giovanni Bardi, Vincenzo Galilei, Jacopo Peri, and Giulio Caccini, all discussed what would become new practices and experimentation in music (Florence 647).

The Baroque Era began at the end of the 16th century and lasted to about 1750. It reflects a period of time when great changes occurred in music and culture, and bridges the gap between the music of the renaissance and the music of the classical era. The music of the early baroque was composed in a style that was very similar that of the renaissance era.

The term Baroque has only recently become a means to determine the period of time. ?It is derived from the French baroque, which comes from the Portuguese baroco, meaning a pearl of irregular or bulbous shape? (Baroque 172). The word Baroque was

initially used to imply strangeness and abnormality.

During this period, most music was written as ordered and requested by aristocratic courts, churches, and opera houses in which all patrons and musicians demanded new music. Composers were an integral part of the baroque society and even though they wrote their music for specific purpose for their patrons, its quality was so high that much of it has become standard today. The baroque style of music represented a complete departure from that of the renaissance era.

Perhaps the key of the Baroque style is its idea of homophonic music versus the polyphony of before. The homophonic style created a distinct separation between the melody line and the accompaniment. The focus of text instead of music opened a new door leading to many new ideas. This introduced a solo style. ?Stile recitativo was heard in at least two sacre rappresentazioni in which music was confined to a few choruses and solo songs, as in the secular commedie with intermedi? (Florence 649). This style resembled a narrative where there is no distinct rhythmic pattern, almost speech-like. In the renaissance period, all sacred music was performed by choirs. In the baroque, individual parts were assigned to soloists.

A baroque piece was famous for its mood. What is happy will be happy and what is sad will be sad throughout. Composers molded the musical language to fit moods. Some definite rhythms and melodic patterns are used to define those moods and expressions. Known as the ?Doctrine of Affections?, this concept of one emotional idea or feeling was a prominent feature of Baroque music. This mood is conveyed by the

continuity of rhythm. Rhythmic patterns heard at the beginning of a piece are reiterated

many times throughout. The imitation drives the music forward. This forward motion is hardly ever interrupted.

Other important aspects of the ?new? style included the basso continuo or figured bass, usually a descending tetra-chord. The main melody was in the in the treble, and was usually a solo, while the bass was played as an accompaniment. The composer would then put the numbers or figures below the bass line, as we get the name, figured bass (Baroque 177). These figures represented the root tones of the chords. Performers would then fill in the remaining tones of chords, making harmonies to accompany the main melody in the treble. Figured bass was a step in the process towards developing tonal harmony. These were the probably the most crucial musical concepts and practices that changed the texture and general characteristics of European music from its polyphonic texture to homophonic and harmonic texture

In 1601-1602, Giulio Caccini published Le nuove musiche (the new music). This work containing solo madrigals was influential in establishing the popularity of monody in Italy. As seen in Amarilla Mia Bella, from Le nuove musiche, Caccini projects an expressive vocal line against a harmonic background conceived as support for the voice (Stolba 235).

The introduction of opera with its solo singing also helped to form the baroque style. This style was introduced into the sacred music. The sacred music of the baroque era was composed in a more secular style than was the choir music of the renaissance.

Sacred music during the renaissance period was sung in the a cappella choral style

that was its trademark. If instruments were used at all, they simply copied the parts sung by the choirs instead of introducing separate melodies. In the baroque era, however, instruments gained a place of their own in sacred as well as secular music.

Such a composer to portrait these new ways was Claudio Monteverdi. Born in Cremona 1567, he went to Mantova to become court musician. He was appointed maestro di capella and stayed there until the age of 45. From then until his death in 1643 he was maestro di capella at the famous basilica di San Marco in Venezia (Rosand 15). Although his style is clearly influenced by Renaissance polyphony, as in L?incoronazione di Poppea, the work also shows many clear examples of the new ideas. Monteverdi distinguishes between the Prima pratica as the first practice, stile antico (the old style), and Seconda pratica as the second practice, stile moderno (the modern style)

(Bukofzer 3).

In his final masterwork, L’incoronazione di Poppea (1642), the protagonists are not ancient Greek gods and heroes, but real people, and in that good does not triumph over evil. In the opera, Poppea, a dreamer is out to gain the love of Nero. She is a representative of the old ways and music. Her opposition was Seneca, the voice of reason, representing text. The opera itself follows a structure that compares to the beliefs of the Camerata. Monody, lyrical arias, an emotional love scene between Poppea and Nero, and speech-like recitative are all featured within. Poppea triumphs over Seneca and wins Nero. Music conquered text, which ties him to his roots in a polyphonic

society. ?Monteverdi believed his aims could be realized in polyphonic music; the

Camerata turned to homophony and accompanied monody? (Stolba 244). He led the

genre to a first climax in that he composed the music not according to strict academic rules, but in order to emphasize the emotion required by the plot.

Although the ideas and concepts were radical and appealing, criticism was inevitable. Critics such as Artusi attacked the work of Monteverdi and others, holding strongly to the modern ways. ?The eternal controversy between the artist and critic about the standards of art criticism flamed up in the violent manner that is indicative of all periods of time? (Bukofzer 1).

In the late Baroque, music again begins to become more complex. The ideas of the Camerata are still present but a noticeable shift will soon move towards another period in music, the Classical Age. Composers such as Arcangelo Corelli and Antonio Vivaldi, both combine traditional means and new concepts.

In Corelli?s Sonata da Camera, a sonata and dance suite, he uses imitation, sequence and suspensions, following the distinct rhythmic patterns of the Baroque style. In his Sonata da Chiesa, ornamentation is used as a more complex form of developing music. In this work, music becomes idiomatic for the violin. Techniques such as double stops create effects that could not be imitated for the human voice as it instrumentation would have done during the renaissance (Stolba 293). ?The idiom-consciousness of the baroque era must be understood as another aspect of its style-consciousness, and nowhere does the difference between renaissance and baroque music come more openly to the

surface than here? (Bukofzer 13).

Composers began exploring music’s ability to express the human spirit and to depict emotional state. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was the most famous set of concertos to portray this. His use of instrumentation and timbre places the listener into a new realm in which he takes you on a ride through the four seasons. The music tells a story, often imitating everyday sounds. Vivaldi?s work was crucial to the development of the solo concerto, and his compositions helped prepare the way for piano concertos half century later (Stolba 338).

Throughout the Baroque era, developments on the traditional ways as it began, flourished into a complex system. The shift into the Classical era completes the cycle of the style revolution. The ideas and concepts of the Baroque left such an imprint on music, that its works have become part of standard literature in today?s society.

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