Showing posts with label Music History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Music History. Show all posts

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Sufi Qawwali

A light breeze flowing across the Jamuna river mingles with a lonely voice. The musician recites a line from a Sufi poem -- it could be Amir Khusrao. The words float high above, supported only by a harmonium. Then a chorus of four others echoes the melody. Someone picks up the dholak, another begins clapping to the beat. Gradually, the singing gathers momentum and a gathering of devotees, mesmerised, starts swaying to the music. Cut to Lincoln Centre, New York. An orchestra makes its entry on stage and is applauded by the couple of thousand people seated in the magnificent air-conditioned auditorium. A rotund man puts one hand to his ear, raises the other evocatively and begins singing. Within minutes, hordes of people -- from Punjabi taxi drivers to punky Asian teenagers -- are dancing maniacally in the aisles.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan took qawwali from the anonymous marble shrines of India and Pakistan into the global music circuit of fusion and pop. The intermediate phase could perhaps be seen as a combination of genuine improvisation and unabashed greed. But though part of the outcome was great -- like the soundtrack for The Last Temptation of Christ (where he teamed up with Peter Gabriel) and Bandit Queen -- much of it was not agreeable to many, and infuriating to some.
In his early avatars, however, the Lahore musician treated his listeners -- indeed overwhelmed them -- with his renderings of qawwali. Not surprising, for Nusrat came from a family of well-known qawwals. A recently released four-part recording of traditional Sufi qawwalis (performed live in London in December 1989), with a strong base in classical music, provides a glimpse of the asli cheez -- music which elevates the spirit, bringing both the performer and listener closer to God.
In fact, contrary to what flashes on MTV or Channel V, qawwali was essentially spiritual music. There are various levels of interaction between religion and music, explains Ashok Ranade, well-known musicologist. You have litturgic music that accompanies rituals -- like the ubiquitous aarti -- and mystic music where there is a one-to-one relationship between the singer and God -- like the chanting of mantras. And finally, you have the public version of mystic music -- like the qawwali or bhajan-kirtans which, by definition, are sung in a place of worship. "Indeed, there is a direct parallel between bhajans and qawwali," says Ranade. He explains the characteristics common to both which are used to attract devotees. In both forms, you have the soloist juxtaposed with a chorus. The chorus reinforces the message in the music by constantly repeating a phrase, embellishing and emphasising it. And in both cases, the music is sung to a compelling rhythm -- always fast -- which immediately engages the audience. The drumming is supposed to merge with, and eventually take over, the heartbeat.
"By enhancing the message of mystical poetry, and by providing a powerful rhythm suggesting the ceaseless repetition of God's name (zikr), the music of qawwali has a religious function: to arouse mystical love, even divine ecstasy, which is the core experience of Sufism," writes Regula Burckhardt Qureshi, in her authoritative book on Qawwali, Sufi Music of India & Pakistan. The term 'qawwali' can be traced back to the ancient Arabic music forms Kaul and Kalbana. A Kaul or Qaul, literally meaning "aphorism", is a song in Arabic. Qawwali translates into 'utterance'. Interestingly, although Islam has a vast following all over the world, qawwali is only sung in India and Pakistan. Ranade suggests that when missionaries of Islam came to India, they found that music was an integral part of religion. So the qawwals flocked and thrived here, drawing heavily from the north-Indian tradition of Hindustani classical music.
A qawwali typically begins with an instrumental prelude on the harmonium, outlining the melody. Then the qawwal sings the introductory verse and finally he is joined by his chorus. Traditionally, it remained loosely within the parameters of a raga, and was considered a lighter genre of classical music. "Over the years, north Indian 'classical' music has been limited to mean khayal -- and maybe ghazal," suggests Shama Zaidi, scriptwriter. "Allied forms like qawwali, or even the tappa and thumri, were not considered classical." It is not surprising, therefore, that qawwalis were marginalised and gradually copied by Bollywood and Bhendi Bazaar. "What else do you expect?" questions Zaidi.
Among the first Hindi films to take qawwali out of the religious context and into popular cinema was R Chandra's Barsat Ki Ek Raat (1959). Interestingly the song, Na To Caravan Ki Taalaash Hai, was inspired by Nusrat's father, Fateh Ali Khan.
Being a participative form of music, it gradually became popular and eventually vulgarised. As Raju Bharatan, an authority on Hindi cinema puts it, "By the '80s, music lost its relevance because action came into play." The characters in films would wear colourful scarves and topis, clap their hands and sing vapid songs that were passed off as qawwali.
The poetry on which qawwali was based also lent itself to corruption. It was the easiest thing to translate the Sufi verses describing metaphysical love between man and God into mundane love between a man and woman.
"Qawwali music became a medium for sexual wrestling matches of sorts," says music director Naushad wryly. "A male singer sat across from a female singer, and they competed with each other, singing rhyming lines like Tera Mukhda Nainital and Tere Haat Mein Hai Rumaal.
Zaidi recalls an incident in the '60s, when the late Urdu poet Niaz Haider heard Shakeela Bano Bhopali, a popular qawwal, performing at a numaish in Aligarh. Two light bulbs in her bosom flashed to the beat of the song. He was so incensed that he stormed up to the stage, publicly admonished her for insulting qawwali, and ripped out the microphone.
Today, apart from the anonymous fakir-musicians who perform at remote dargahs, there are only a few artistes --the Sabri brothers of Pakistan, Jafar Hussain from Delhi and Baroda's Noor Jehan, for instance -- who are still singing the authentic qawwali. And heart-felt outbursts such as Haider's have degenerated into colourful anecdotes about eccentric traditionalists, while the music continues to fade out.

The Modern/20th Century Era (1900 - Present)

The Modern/20th Century Era (1900 - Present)
With the coming of the 20th century another evolution in the musical world emerged. While some of the early 20th century music can be seen as extensions of the late Romantic style, much of 20th century music can be seen as a rebellion. Composers did not look to build on what was standard but again created music freely and used sounds that went against the current grain. Twentieth century music can be described as being more refined, vague in form, delicate, and having a mysterious atmosphere. Twentieth century music is an era that is hard to define in terms of musical style. The only easy way to define 20th century music is that it does not fit into the Romantic era's requirements. And because of its own expression and orchestral technique it does not fit into any other category but its own. This time period spawned many new terms for musical styles because of the diversity of music that was being written. Some common examples are atonality, expressionism (seen in Schoenberg's early music), neo-Romanticism, andneo-Classicism Neo-Classicism. As was true in the Romantic era, nationalism nationalismwas still an important musical device used during the first half of the 20th century. Composers utilized folk songs to enriched their music. Examples can be seen in the music of Raplh Vaughan Williams (England), Bela Bartok (Hungary), Heitor Villa Lobos (Brazil) and Aaron Copland (USA). Jazz and popular musical styles influenced composers from both the United States and Europe. In 20th century musical styles traditional forms and structures were broken up and recreated or composed using non-Western musical techniques and abstract ideas. Technology also became an extremely important factor in the music making during this time period. Composers have been known to use recording tape as a compositional tool. Electronically created sounds are used in combination with other electronic sounds or played together with traditional music instruments. Most recently, the use of computer technology has affected the world of music making. Some ways in which computers currently alter the face of the music world are by manipulating the performance of instruments in real time.
The Modern/20th Century Trends
Throughout the twentieth century, many trends developed. These trends permeated all the different areas of music and did not specifically happen at a given point in time or take on a strict form. Some of these trends were incorporated together into the same piece of music. The twentieth century broke all the musical rules of the past and let one form and style flow right into another. It is still important to note that although much change came with the turn of the century, Romantic music continued throughout this era, and remained the dominant form for quite some time.
Impressionism Impressionism was the very first trend of significance which moved away from Romanticism and towards Modern era characteristics. Though this type of music was programmatic, it still started the movement away from the Romantic era. Impressionistic music was vague in form, delicate in nature, and had a mysterious atmosphere to it.
Expressionism Although not as important as Impressionism, Expressionism was a prominent early twentieth century movement. Stylistically, expressionistic music was very atonal and dissonant. It was a German movement away from French Impressionism. It was emotional and had a somewhat Romantic feel to it.
Neo-Classicism Neo-Classicism Neo-Classicismcan be defined as the new classical movement. This movement started in the early 1920s and continued to be a leading musical movement throughout the century. This trend is still popular today. Neo-Classicism is a movement which incorporated the music of the Classical era, in terms of clarity of texture and objectivity. This trend not only based its music on the Classical era, but it also mixed Renaissance, Baroque, and some modern trends in with it.
Jazz Jazz is a musical movement which dominated the 1900s. It is mainly an American form and remains popular to this day. Jazz can be defined as anything from popular music of the twentieth century to the improvised sounds of a dance band. Some prominent forms of Jazz throughout the century have been Ragtime, Blues Blues, Swing Swing, Dixieland Jazz, Bop, and Boogie-Woogie. Since the second half of the 1900s, new forms and techniques of Jazz have come about. These include funky hard bop regression, cool jazz, progressive jazz, and rock and roll. Generally these newer styles have a greater range in harmony, rhythm, and melody, and are less oriented to dance music. They also sometimes borrow techniques and forms from classical music, and vice versa, as modern classical music often contains Jazz elements.
Aleatory Music or Chance Music Aleatory music is an extremely random style of music. The composer and/or the performer will randomly pick musical materials and make it into a piece of music. There are no rules to this form of music, and, thus, any kind of music can be created as a result. After the composer writes a piece in this unusual style, the performer then improvises on it, to make it stranger and more unique. Some techniques involved in aleatory music are having the audience improvise along with the performer, using electronic or computer media, or reading poetry somewhere inside of the work.
Electronic The newest trend of the twentieth century lies in electronic music. Electronic music takes electronically generated sounds and turns it into a work of music. Like conventional music, electronic music has four general properties to it. These are amplitude, pitch duration, and timbre. Electronic music is typically composed on either a synthesizer or a computer. The most current trends in this form of music show electronic music in combination with Jazz.
The Modern/20th Century Techniques
During the Modern era, many new musical techniques emerged. They were seen in melody melody, harmony harmony, rhythm, meter, texture, tonality, and sonority sonority. It is important to note that during the twentieth century not all changes in music were a revolution or a return to old ideals.
Meter and Rhythm Few changes occurred to the concepts of meter and rhythm during the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras. For the first time in hundreds of years, rhythm became a more important factor and took on characteristics of flexibility and variety.
New Time Signatures - Refers to odd time signatures, such as 5/8 and 7/8, are found in modern music. Asymetrical Grouping - This is a grouping of notes within a measure to yield new rhythmic effects. Non-metric Music - For non-metric flexibility, composers omit the bar line, this is limited to solo media. Polymetric Music - This is music in which two or more meters are used simultaneously. Multimetric Music - In this type of music frequent changes of time signature occur almost every measure. Displaced Bar Line - This is a technique to make the barline seem as if it is misplaced or shifted. To do this, accents are put in recurring patterns to counter the normal accents in the measure.
Melody During the 1900s, new changes to melody occured in the areas of style, scale bases, and the role of melody. Style Melody in music has generally remained traditional throughout the Modern era, but there have been exceptions as some extreme forms of melody have occured.
Scale Bases New melodic and harmonic styles appear during this era, as a result of the use of unconventional scales. Composers have borrowed scales from old church modes and have used them in a neomodal settings. The Role of Melody Up until the twentieth century melody was the most important element in any work of music. Now, the role of melody has greatly changed. It is still important in music with contrapuntal contrapuntaltexture, but its importance is greatly diminished in music having great emphasis on harmony and rhythm, and virtually nonexistent in some forms of electronic music with nontonal sound.
Texture Contrapuntal textures in music dominate the Modern era. While, homophonic homophonictextures are present, it is to a lesser degree and with less importance. Texture is especially evident in neo-Classicism neo-Classicism, where contrapuntal forms from the Baroque, such as the cannon cannonand fugue fugue, are used.
Sonority Sonority of the modern era takes on the characteristics of being thin, clear, and transparent. This resembles music of the Classical era, thus showing once again the importance of neo-Classicism in the twentieth century. Pointillism, a very thin sonority is also present in this modern era. It involves fragmentary lines, a combination of various tones sounding simultaneously, frequently changed timbres, and widely spaced registers.
Serialism & Twelve Tone Music Serial music is based on a repeating series of rhythms, dynamics, tones, or timbres in a work. This form first appeared in the 1920s and relates to new concepts of formal structure in music and atonality. Twelve tone music is a form of serialism that is based on a series of twelve different pitches called a tone row. A tone row contains all twelve tones of the octave arranged in such an order that any implication of tonic or key center is avoided. Melody, harmony, and themes are derived from the tone row, which replaces scales as the basis of composition.
The Modern/20th Century Composers
Bartok, Bela (1881-1945) Bela Bartok was a famous Hungarian composer who transcribed Hungarian folk songs and also wrote his own orchestral, opera, ballet, and chamber music. Stylistically, he mixed his innate musical talent along with his intellectual skill to create his mastery of modern form. His most famous works are the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, Concerto for Orchestra, and Mikrokosmos. Britten, Benjamin (1913-1976) Born in 1913, Benjamin Britten was an English composer. He wrote music in choral, orchestral, solo vocal, and operatic styles. He is also well known as being a significant composer of opera. He used various themes from American, Japanese, and British cultures in his works. His most famous opera is Peter Grimes. Britten was very opposed to war, and this can be seen in his War Requiem, which was a statement about his ojection against militarism.
Bernstein, Leonard (1918-1990) Leonard Bernstein was one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He was a virtuoso virtuosopianist, a television star, a gifted conductor, a businessman, and a classroom teacher. Bernstein was first inspired by music when, at eight years old, he heard music played in his first trip to a synagogue. He was moved to tears by the choir and the organ sounds. He would never be the same again, and the musical world can be thankful for that. He learned how to play the piano, and continued playing and performimg for the rest of his life. Composer Serge Koussevitsky gave him positive encouragement and helped him to become a successful conductor when he was only in his twenties. Some of the famous groups that he conducted were the New York Philharmonic, The New York City Symphony Orchestra, and the Boston, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Israeli orchestras. Some of his well known works are the symphony Jeremiah and Serenade for Violin Solo, String Orchestra and Percussion. His compositions Masque and Turkey Trot are known for being very lively and rhythmic. He is also known for his ballet Fancy Free, his musical, On the Town, and his opera Candide.
Copland, Aaron (1900-1990) The composer Aaron Copland was born in 1900 in Brooklyn, New York. His personality often clashed with his musical compositions, as he was a quiet and soft-spoken man, while his music was loud, brilliant, and tense. As a child, he studied the piano and music theory. When he was old enough to leave home, he traveled to France to further immerse himself in the musical world. There he made his first business mistake, as he sold a short composition of his, The Cat and The Mouse, for twenty-five dollars. Thousands of copies were sold and he did not receive and royalties from the song. Copland returned to New York after his education in France. While back in the United States, he composed his famous Symphony for Organ and Orchestra. He went on to become the director of many musical foundations such as the International Society for Contemporary Music, the League of Composers, and his own foundation. Copland was very interested in educating people about modern music. He gave concerts with fellow friend and composer Roger Sessions. These Copland-Sessions concerts, served to educate audiences about the new and dissonant music that he and Sessions composed. He was also the director of the Berkshire School of Music in Tanglewood, Massachusetts after the great conductor Serge Koussevitzky died. Some of his most famous works are Lincoln Portrait, a large orchestral piece with text from the Gettysburg address, and Appalachian Spring, which was a Pulitzer Prize and Critic's Circle of New York winning ballet. Additional songs for which he is known are Hoedown and Simple Gifts. Copalnd was an extremely versatile composer and composed music for choruses, orchestras, theater, and chamber music groups. It is a special honor of his that he was one of the first major composers asked to write a piece of music for a radio broadcast. Additionally, he wrote the scores for the films The Heiress, The City, Our Town, and Of Mice and Men. His compositions for film are emotional and have also been performed in concert halls. Aaron Copland retired from composing music in 1965. This was due to the fact that younger composers were ignoring him, and the general public did not receive his newer works very well. Among these works that were ignored by the public was Inscapes, one of the great postwar American scores. From then on, Copland focused on a conducting career, specializing in his own scores.
Gershwin, George (1898-1937) American born composer George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1898. He was a composer of both pop and concert music. As a child, Gershwin learned about music by playing the piano. At age sixteen, he received additional piano practice at a job where he played popular song hits all day long. He began to compose and play some of his original works but was largely ignored. Eventually, Gershwin took a job as a rehearsal pianist at a Ziegfeld production. At this point in his life, he wrote his first musical comedy, La La Lucille, which turned out to be a hit. From then on he rapidly turned out Broadway successes. These were the famous Oh Kay, Strike Up the Band, Girl Crazy, Funny Face, Of Thee I Sing, Lady Be Good, and George White's Scandals. These scores contained songs that the country would grow to love, full of popular music and touches of early rock and roll. Soon after, George Gershwin produced another one of his most famous works, Rhapsody in Blue. This was a jazz piece written as a form of art. This whole philosophy was very new to the public, and yet they instantaneously fell in love with this piece. It was performed in concerts, broadcast on radio stations, and recorded and distributed in high volume, making it a well-known musical composition throughout the world. After Rhapsody in Blue, he composed two very famous compositions, American in Paris and the Cuban Overture. Porgy and Bess was George Gershwin's last important composition. This was a grand opera folk opera written about the African American Southern culture. The all-African cast was so important that it was hailed as the first completely successful and completely American opera. It was written so emotionally and dramatically that members of the cast could not believe that the opera's composer wasn't at least partially African American. Porgy and Bess exemplified the skill and talent that George Gershwin possessed. Tragically, Gershwin died at the young age of thirty-nine due to a cancerous brain tumor. His legacy continued on and Gershwin's music is still influential today, making him one of the most important composers of the twentieth century.
Ives, Charles (1874-1954) Charles Ives was born in 1874 in Danbury, Connecticut. He learned about music from his father who was the lead member of the town band. At Yale he took a course in music, but rather than use conventional notation, he invented his own musical alphabet. Ives' unusual philosophy certainly did not make him a conservative musician. From 1906 to 1930, when he retired, Ives was a businessman at an insurance company. From that point on he focused wholeheartedly on his music. Throughout his life, he tried not to miss a musical affair in his hometown of Danbury. He attended performances by the town band and played the organ in church. When he wrote music he incorporated the sounds he heard in town performances into it, faults and all. Some typical characteristics of his music were off-key singing, squeaky and out of tune violin playing, and the wheeze of the harmonium. Ives wrote his music in a manner as cryptic as its sound. His score would have notes jotted all over the page with no bar separations and strange chords, rhythms, and quarter tones. One of his most famous works, written in this style, is his second sonata sonatafor the piano, entitled Concord, Massachusetts. This was arranged into four movements known separately as "Emerson," "Hawthorne," "The Alcotts," and "Thoreau." This piece brought out the spirit of Concord in the middle of the century, and was hailed for its power and display of emotion. Another popular piece of Charles Ives' was his Symphony for Orchestra and Piano. Charles Ives was certainly one of the most influential, original, and unique composers of the 20th century. He died at eighty years of age, leaving eleven volumes of chamber music and six volumes of orchestral scores, most never performed. He was only semi appreciated in his lifetime, but the world today now appreciates his importance to the world of music. He was innovative, well ahead of his time, and risky and bold in his musical experimentation. Ives and his music are studied today for their freshness and daring.
Stravinsky, Igor (1882-1971) Igor Stravinsky was born in Russia in 1882. His earlier works, such as his symphony No. 1 in E Flat, showed the old school Romantic musical style of Russia. However, Stravinsky began to turn away from this style of music and progressed towards the music of Claude Debussy, while adding a Russian flavor to it. Some of the works he completed in this new style were The Faun and the Shepherdess, Fireworks, and the major ballet Firebird. In these compositions, clean orchestral textures, irregular rhythms, and emphasis on stamping were used. Two additional ballets written in this style were Le Sacre du Printemps and Petrouchka. These works were less Romantic and had more of a barbaric feeling to them. Eventually tiring of this style, Stravinsky decided to search for a new style of music once again. In this transitional peroid, he wrote the opera Le Rossignol, and Symphonies for Wind Instruments. After World War I, he moved further away from his fiery ballets by composing Tango, Ragtime, and L'Histoire du Soldat. These new scores were less aesthetically pleasing but used more objectification. At this time, he also reworked the old masterpieces of Pulcinella and Oedipus Rex. This style was called neo-Classicism neo-Classicism, which was a return to classical music with modern day elements added in. Stravinsky is regarded as the most influential modern composer in both France and America. His most famous Neoclassicist works are the Concerto for Two Solo Pianofortes, the ballets Apollo and Jeu de Cartes, Symphony in Three Movements, Symphony in C, Ebony Concerto, Mass, Symphony of Psalms, and the classic full length opera, The Rake's Progress. After Stravinsky finished The Rake's Progress he moved away from neo-Classicism and towards the serial music style. His most famous works in this category were Movements for Piano and Orchestra, Cantata, In Memoriam Dylan Thomas, Three Shakespeare Songs, Threni, Introit, The Dove Descending Breaks the Air for chorus, and Requiem Canticles. Stravinksy was a multifaceted and talented man who left an impression still burning on the musical world today.
Vaughn Williams, Ralph (1872-1958) Ralph Vaughan Williams was born in England during the year 1872. Composers influenced in the musical style of Brahms were his musical mentors. His earlier music showed the influence of Brahms, yet they also has Williams' unique and original sound to them. Throughout his life, he was fascinated by the English folk song. Vaughan Williams had the unique talent of being able to absorb musical techniques and styles from other composers while still remaining true and original to himself. Composers who influenced him were Stravinksy, Bach, Brahms, Byrd, and Debussy. His earliest compositions were French impressionist music, such as his In the Fen Country, and String Quartet No. 1. He soon changed his musical style to incidental music. In this format, his famous works were The Wasps, the song cycle On Wenlock Edge and Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. Vaughan Williams was a composer in almost every category of music. He wrote a few of operas, none which had success on stage, even though they were filled with artistically pleasing music. His other major musical compositions were Hodie, Merciless Beauty, Serenade to Music, 10 Blake Songs, Five Mystical Songs, Dona nobis pacem, and Sancta Civitas. All of his symphonies show Ralph Vaughan Williams' wide range of style and form, each piece having a truly unique sound. His music was always original and unique, with much drama and emotion.

The Medieval Era (800 - 1400 C.E.)

The Medieval Era (800 - 1400 C.E.)
The Medieval Era is the longest and most remote period of musical history. It is important to note that this musical era consists of almost a thousand years worth of music. For most of the middle ages, the Church was the focal point of social life, learning, and the arts. Saint Gregory, who was pope from 590 - 640 C.E., is said to have organized a huge repetoire of chants that developed during the first centuries of the Christian church. Thus the term of "Gregorian Chant" came about. Early Medieval music notation did not look like the notation that is used in present day music. The earliest signs of a notational system notational system for music used neumes. For a long time, musical notation consisted of the pitch or note that was to be sung. Other musical notation, such as rhythm didn't begin until the 12th or 13th centuries. Gregorian Chant is monophonic, having one melodic line without an accompaniment. It is said to be very serene, with pure shapes of melody. It is not known who wrote the melodies of the Gregorian Chant. Similar to folk melodies, it probably changed over time as it was passed down through generations. Toward the latter part of the Middle Ages, music consisted of two or more melodic lines that were heard simultaneously, called polyphony polyphony. This appeared around the 1200s. Polyphony was more difficult to compose than the monophonic chant, because a composer had to combine multiple melodic lines in a way that would be pleasing to the listener. Most of the Medieval polyphonic music was anonymous, as the names of composers were never written down. However, there are a few exceptions, as some composers had works so important that their names were preserved along with their music. Although little of it has been preserved, secular secularsong was important to the medieval era.. Secular song was monophonic and stylistically more diversified than plain song. It was stronger, and utilized regular rhythms, and had short rhythmic patterns. It was generally modal but favored major (Ionian) and minor (Aeolian) modes.
During the Medieval Era, there were many forms of vocal music. They were very simplistic in nature.
FORMS Plainsong One of the most common vocal forms of the time was called plainchant, the Gregorian chant, or plainsong. It is known that this form of vocal music was the main root of polyphony during both the Medieval era and in the Renaissance era. Secular Song While little secular song had been preserved to date, it was still a very important musical form during the Medieval era. It was very similar to plainsong in that it had single note notation, had no accompaniment, and was written in the monophonic style. The difference between secular song and plainsong was its meter. It was mostly written in triple meter. Additionally, it also dealt with a wider range of subjects than the very religious plainsong. Furthermore, secular song had clear phrase and sectional structure , was written in most vernacular languages instead of the Latin-only plainsong, and used shorter and more regular rhythms.
Polyphony One of the greatest musical achievements in the history of music occurred during the Medieval era. This was the coming of polyphony. Polyphony is two or more vocal parts, each with its own individual melodic importance within a work. The earliest known polyphony occurred in secular music of the 8th century. However, from the 9th to the 13th centuries, polyphony grew in style and popularity and evolved into church music, which was based on plainsong.
ARS ANTIQUA Ars Antiqua is the time period between the mid 1100s to the end of the 1200s. This phrase means "The Old Art." This was a time during the Medieval Era when polyphony developed even further. Notre Dame Organum The Notre Dame organum developed shortly after the year 1150. In this form of polyphony, there were two parts sung by solo voices, alternating with sections of plainsong sung by a choir. Appearing for the first time was dicant style. This style had sections in which the tenor part contained shorter and measured notes. Polyphonic Conductus The polyphonic conductus was in wide usage during the beginning half of the 13th century. The tenor part of this musical form was composed, instead of borrowed from plainsong, as it was in organum. Additionally, the parts moved together rhythmically, and the piece was written for two to four parts. The polyphonic conductus was composed in non-liturgical or secular form.
Motet Around the year 1250, the motet became the main polyphonic form. It started to replace organum and conductus. A motet consisted of specific musical guidelines. A plainsong was sung by the tenor voice, and above it, two other parts were sung in faster moving notes. It was written in either sacred or secular style (in Latin or in vernacular) and usually was played in triple meter with clashes of dissonant intervals. Hocket Hocket was a form of polyphony that was often found in the music of the late 1200s To the 1300s. It was a technique that interrupted the melody line by frequently placing rests (which alternated between two voice parts) into the piece.
Rota Although not many works had this form during the Ars Antiqua stage of the Medieval Era, the rota still was present. It was a round or cannon in which two or more parts carried the same melody at different times. Rondellus The rondellus was a three part, secular form, in which exchange occured between the three different melodies. This polyphonic work involved all the parts starting together rather than starting consecutively. Each part then rotated the melody.
ARS NOVA The Ars Nova, or "The New Art," took place during the end of the Medieval era while foreshadowing some of the Renaissance trends that were to ome. Madrigal Written in two vocal parts, this musical form was the first polyphonic form to appear in Italy. The madrigal had each stanza written in duple time and ended with a ritornello section in triple meter.
Caccia The caccia was at its musical height from 1345 to 1370. It was the primary musical form that employed the canon within it. The canon was based on a continuous imitation of two or more parts. The two upper parts were sung in strict imitation with long intervals between the two parts while the third lowest part was composed in slow moving notes and was probably played on an instrument. Ballata This form came about after the madrigal and the caccia and originated as a dance song. The ballata had a sectional structure with refrains, called ripresa sung at the beginning and end of each stanza.
The Medieval Era (800 - 1400 C.E.) Instrumental
Although very little instrumental music has been left intact from the composers of the time period, it is a well known fact that instruments were used throughout the Medieval era.
INSTRUMENTS Bowed Instruments The most important of the bowed instruments were the vielles. They were the precursors of the Renaissance viol family. Another bowed instrument used during the medieval times was the rebec, which was a pear shaped instrument. Later in the time period the tromba marina appeared. It was long in shape and usually had one string. Sometimes it had two strings that were tuned in unison. Plucked Strings The most important plucked string instrument was the lute. It had an angled neck and a pear shaped body. The psaltery, a flat sounding board was another instrument similar to that of the zither.
Wind Instruments During this time period recorders, various kinds of trumpets, and horns were in use. The shawm, which was a double reed instrument, was also used.
Organs In the Medieval era, portative organs or organetto were used. They were small and were able to be moved around. The positive organ was a very important instrument of the time period. It was the first organ for which polyphonic music was composed. It was of medium size and could not be moved. During the 1300s larger organs started to appear usually in the churches of Europe. Some of them had up to 2,500 or more pipes.
Percussion Instruments Drums came in many different shapes and sizes and were used mainly for military and dance purposes. Kettledrums, also called nakers, were used in pairs during this time period. In addition, a cylidrical drum, known as the tabor, was used. Many kinds of bells and cymbals were also used during the Medieval era.
During the Middle Ages, composers were not all that concerned with how their written music was performed. They gave little notice to what instrument(s) would play a piece and never indicated particular instruments within their scores. It is believed that there were basically five ways in which instruments were employed during this period in music history. According to Hugh M. Miller:
1. Vocal polyphony was occassionally played entirely by instruments 2. Instruments were used to double one or more vocal parts 3. Textless parts in polyphonic music were probably intended to be played by instruments as, for example, in 13th century motets and 14th century cacce and ballate. 4. Music clearly intended for instrumental performance was mainly dance music and a few instrumental motets and conductus. 5. They may have been substituted for voices in one or more parts with texts
Dance Music Almost every single one of the preserved dance forms were written in monophonic style. Folk or court dance music was made up on the spot or played from memory. The principal dance form of the 1400s was the estampie. This dance form had many repeated sections and was almost always played triple time. Some other famous dances were the danse royale and the Italian saltarello and istanpitta from the 1500s. The ductia was also a popular dance that was written in three or four sections. The finale of a dance work was named a rotta, rotte, or rota, and involved a change of meter involved.
The Medieval Era Composers
Dufay, Guillaume (1400-1474) Guillaume Dufay composed music from the late Medieval era into the early Renaissance. He was born in the Duchy of Burgundy, which is today known as Cambrai, located in France. His birthplace was one of the major musical centers of the world. This area influenced many of the composers who lived during the Renaissance. Throughout his life, Dufay resided in many different Italian cities, which brought a high degree of worldliness to his music.
The music of Dufay was very calm, soothing, and had direction and clear distinctions. This was in opposition to the typical music of the late Medieval era, which was often harsh and rhythmically complex. As time progressed, and musical norms started changing, so did the music of Guillaume Dufay. He began to explore the music of four voice vocal texture, which became a distinct Renaissance musical characteristic. He was one of the catalysts who helped Medieval music to move forward and transition into the Renaissance age.
de Vitry, Phillipe (1291-1361) Phillipe de Vitry was one of the most important composers involved with Medieval music. He was the author of a prominent music theory text, called the Ars Nova. In this work, he showed how he would like to expand the rhythmic resources offered to composers, introduced new rhythmic schemes and a new mensural notation system. This new system remained an important notational device for over a century after his death. He made the first use of binary rhythm and is thus considered to be a mathematical and philosophical genius of his time period. Additionally, he is credited with being one of the main developers of the motet. He is one of the first composers to discover and use isorhythm; a single rhythmic figure continually repeated by a voice.
The only surviving works of Phillipe de Vitry were his motets. They are mostly secular, although some took on religious tones. Most of his motets were on political, as opposed to romantic, topics. He wrote his secular pieces in Latin, instead of French. He was seen as a prodigy, as he wrote about the issues of his time period and put them into musical form. Vitry is hailed today for his music theory that spurned the whole Ars Nova era of the Medieval era and for his own emotional motets. He used new modes of musical idiom that would not be refined until years after his death. He left a lasting impression on the musical world.
de Machaut, Guillaume (1300-1377) Born around the year 1300 in France, Guillaume de Machaut was one of the most famous composer of the Medieval era. His most well known work is the Mass of Notre Dame. Written in four voice form, this piece showed his mastery of composition, and served as a textbook example of Medieval counterpoint. He was also well known for his French poetry, songs, and manuscripts prepared for French royalty.
Guillaume de Machaut travelled Europe during his lifetime. In addition to composing, he also was involved with the political events of the time. He surrounded himself with royalty and honorary people.
Guillame de Machaut is considered to be an avant garde composer. His style dominated the Ars Nova period of the Medieval Era. He made little changes to rhythm and meter in his music but added his own interpretation and emotional depth to his pieces. He was also famous for his poetry, which was often set to music and conveyed messages of love.

The Classical Era (1750-1820 C.E.)

The Classical Era (1750-1820 C.E.)
Although the Classical Era lasted for only 70 years, there was a substantial change in the music that was being produced. Classical music placed a greater stress on clarity with regard to melodic expression and instrumental color. Although opera and vocal music (both sacred and secular) were still being written, orchestral literature was performed on a much broader basis. The orchestra gained more color and flexibility as clarinets, flutes, oboes, and bassoons became permanent members of the orchestra. The classical style was dominated by homophony, which consisted of a single melodic line and an accompaniment. New forms of composition were developed to adapt to this style. The most important of these forms was the sonata which was in instrumental music. This form continued to change and evolve throughout the classical period, and it is important to note that the classical sonata was very different from the sonatas written by Baroque composers. The early 1700s reflected a musical style known as Rococo. This style served as a transition from the Baroque to the Classical Era. Rococo, which developed in France, is actually an art term that described a new art style which was both a light and embellished. Musically speaking, it is refered to as style galant. In Germany, after 1750, the style galant became empfindsamer stil. With this change in name came an added element of expressiveness and sentimentality. As classical music evolved, distinctive characteristics developed. Changes in form were seen along with changes in phrase structure. Shorter phraases and well defined cadences became more prevalent. During this time period, a favorite accompaniment pattern was the Alberti bass (name for Dominico Alberti), which featured a broken chord progression. The melodies of the Classical era were more compact and diatonic. Harmony was less structured. It used the tonic, dominant, and subdominant chords. In addition, during this period, diatonic harmony was more common then chromatic. Composers mainly used chords in triadic form and occasionally used seventh chords in their compositions. The four major composers of the Classical era were Haydn, Mozart, Gluck, and Beethoven. These composers wrote extensively for vocal and instrumental mediums.
The Classical Era VOCAL
While the instrumental works of the Classical era were grandiose, the vocal works of the time did not make much of an evolution from thos eof the Baroque era. There are a few important key changes in concepts that occured, however.
Opera With the Classical Era came both the decay and subsequent reformation of the Italian opera seria, or serious opera. Its once dramatic and emotional presentation had evolved into a showy and artificial art form. Although many musicians of the time realized the tragic decline of the opera seria, change took place slowly. To try and restore the opera seria to its former greatness, composers made certain changes in their writing styles. While not everyone agreed upon or employed these changes, many of them can be found in some of the operas of the late 18th century. According to Hugh M. Miller, the following were some of the changes tha occured in opera during the 18th century:
1. Melodic recitatives with orchestral accompaniment were favored over Secco recitatives 2. Solo singers began to lose some of their autocratic domination over opera performance and ostentatious virtuosity was less evident 3. Choral ensembles were used on a much more frequent basis 4. There was a greater concern for the dramatic aspects of peras, as therehad been in the past and less concern given to formal music aspects 5. The orchestra was no longer just used for accompaniment and expanded in size and nature 6. Chains and arias were not the only structures used as composers made operas more dramatic by using different techniques 7. Rigid da capo arias appeared less frequently as they gave way to more diversified forms. (127)
During the same time, the comedic opera began developing. This type of opera was in sharp contrast to the opera seria. It catered more to the people who wanted to "revolt" against the more serious and dramatic opera.
Religious Music For the most part, after Handel mastered the oratorio, it died out as a musical form. Few oratorios of consequence were composed after Handel. During the late 18th century, any oratorios that were still being performed appeared to be almost identical to operas. Some oratorios went so far as to be staged and acted while the performers wore costumes. It is also important to note that Haydn’s oratorios during the Classical era closely resembled Handel's earlier oratorios.
Church music now resembled operatic music more than ever before. Almost all composers of church music during the Classical era also composed operatic music. Massesbecame operatic styled pieces of literature for the orchestra, the solo voice, and the chorus. Duets and arias even resembled operas; the only feature that distinguished them from opera was their texts.
During the Classical era, some Baroque characteristics still remained in place in sacred music. Fugual choruses and basso continuoparts remained virtually identical to those in the Barqoue era.
The Classical Era (1750 - 1820 ) Instrumental Music
During the Classical Era, many changes in instrumental style took place. The classical sonataevolved a great deal during the period. Sonata form was the basic structure in which composers wrote instrumental music. Sonata form was applied to solo sonatas, chamber music, symphonies, and concertos. Musical compositions of this time contained three or four movements, each with its own special characteristics.
The first movement of a Sonata was called the sonata-allegro. It consisted of three sections: 1) Exposition: This section presented the main theme of the movement in the tonic key. The theme then transitioned by a bridge and modulated to the dominant key, or relative major key if the movement was in a minor key. The second theme was presented in the dominant key. This section concluded with a closing theme or codetto.
2) Development: This section used the material from the exposition which the composer "developed" and expanded. Motives were presented in various keys, registers, and groupings of instruments. In this section the composer also used new themes that were not found in the exposition section. The composer ended this section in the tonic keyand moved directly into the recapitulation.
3) Recapitulation: The recapitulation was a restatement of the exposition but with all subsections remaining in the tonic key. In the second movement of a sonata, there were three specifications that usually occured. It was written in a slow tempo, in a contrasting key (usually the subdominant or dominant), in relation to the whole work. Additionally, this movement was more lyrical than the other movement. The third movement in the classical sonata was called the menuettoor minuet. Like the other movements, this one also had special characteristics. It was written in a moderately fast tempo, played in the tonic key, and was written in three-four. The minuet had three sections: minuet, trio, and a repeat of the minuet. In a sonata with three movements, the minuet was left out or omitted. In some of Haydn and in most of Beethoven’s works in sonata form, the third movement was called a scherzo. It utilized the same aspects of the minuet, but was more humorous in nature. Sometimes the two middle movements were reversed, so that the minuet came second and the slow movement third. In a three movement composition, the minuet or scherzo was omitted. The fourth movement, or finale, also had distinct characteristics. It had a lively tempo, was played in the tonic key, and was usually played in sonata-allegro form.
THE SYMPHONY Another important form of instrumental music was the symphony, which blossomed during the 18th century. The basic form of the classical symphony was the Italian overture, called sinfonia. It was an orchestral composition arranged in three movements (fast-slow-fast). Instrumentation commonly found by the end of the 1700's included: 1. Four woodwind instruments in pairs (flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons) 2. Trumpets, horns, and timpani in pairs 3. String choir with first and second violins, violas, cellos, and string basses Orchestration utilized the following: 1. The strings remained the most important sound in the orchestra. 2. Themes were played by first violins. 3. Harmonies were usually played by second violins and violas. 4. Cellos and basses were doubled, however, the basses sounded an octave lower. 5. Brass instruments, without valves, were only used in tutti passages and played harmonies, instead of main thematic material.
CONCERTO The Classical solo concerto was similar to that of the Baroque but differed in the style and structure of movements. The Classical Concerto followed the fast-slow-fast formula, but omitted the minuet movement, thereby containing only three movements. First Movement The first movement was written in sonata-allegro form, but had two separate expositions. The first exposition introduced principal themes by the orchestra in the tonic key. The second exposition had a solo instrument convey the theme in a more brilliant and showy style. In the next stage the composer developed and expanded these musical ideas. At the conclusion of the development section, recapitulation began. At this point, the composer restated the main themes of the movement. Near the end of recapitulation a cadenzais played. This cadenza was freely improvised in a virtuosic manner. During the 1800s, cadenzas were usually written out beforehand by composer or performer. Second Movement The second movement was written in a contrasting key. It utilized a slow tempo and was stylistically more lyric then the first. This movement is the least virtuosic movement of all three.Third Movement The third movement was written in rondo form. It had a lively tempo, and was stylistically lighter then the other movements. Sometimes a cadenza was added.
CHAMBER MUSIC Chamber music was its own distinct musical entity, very different from the orchestral medium. It was composed for a very small ensemble with only a few members and with only one instrument to a part. It was at its height in music literature during the Classical era. Divertimento Divertimento was composed for various media, such as small chamber ensembles and small orchestras. It had three to ten movements, which included minuets, dances, standard sonata-form movements, and marches. This music was meant for outdoor and informal performances. It was less sophisticated than symphonies. Haydn wrote over 60 divertimentos, and Mozart wrote more than 25. String Quartet String quartets were the most popular chamber medium of the Classical era. They were made up of one cello, two violins, and a viola. They were written in 4 movements, using the Classical sonata form.
Other Chamber Music Music was also written for mixed quartets, which used three string instruments and one additional instrument (usually oboe, clarinet, piano or flute). There was also music written for string trios, mixed trios, string quintets, and mixed quintets. Keyboard Music Solo Sonatas for piano or harpsichord were important during the Classical era. Well known composers of this style were Karl Philipp Emanuel Bach, J.C. Bach, and Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. Additionally, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven also wrote piano sonatas.
he Classical Era Composers
Beethoven, Ludwig Van (1770-1827) Of German descent, Ludwig Van Beethoven was born in 1770. It has been said that Beethoven and his music are the bridge between the Classical and the Romantic eras. Beethoven had a difficult child-hood; he was often angry and frustrated, but he also had a wit and personal charm about him. He was self-educated and rose above his tribulations to become one of the greatest composers of all time. Beethoven's music experimented with new rhythms, and he composed music based on an idea, as opposed to a full rhythm. His works were composed for quartets, concertos, symphonies, and piano sonatas. To some, Beethoven is regarded as the father of modern music.
It is often said that Beethoven's music contained his own struggles for both political and personal freedom. His defiant plea for these freedoms can be heard somewhat in his Fifth Symphony, and wholeheartedly in his Ninth Choral Symphony, and in his opera Fidelio. He put an extreme amount of emotion into all his works. Beethoven's music is recognized around the world. He composed nine symphonies and pieces such as Fur Elise, and Moonlight Sonata
The musical career of Beethoven can best be viewed in three different phases. In the first period of his musical career, he composed his First and Second Symphonies, Opus 18, six string quartets, and the first fifteen of his thirty two piano sonatas. In the second or middle stage of his career, Beethoven began to build on Classical works, bringing them to a new level of expressiveness. In this stage he composed his Third Symphony, also known as Eroica. This piece was both longer than his other two symphonies and was so dramatic and emotional that it would change the symphonic form as the musical world knew it. In his third and last stage, Beethoven was at his most creative, and he explored music further then he had ever done before. In his final piano sonatas and string quartets, Beethoven abandoned traditional form, while still keeping his own original sound. It is said that his musical defiance is due in part to his deafness which isolated him from society.
Beethoven's music remembered today for its unique quality and for its defiance. His new styles bridged the Classical and Romantic era and brought the musical world from the old into the new. Beethoven was also the first composer to ever be appreciated by the public within his own lifetime. Thanks to him, great musicians of their time would recieve the credit they were rightly due.
Gluck, Christoph Willibald (1714-1787) Christoph Willibald Gluck was of Bavarian heritage and was a writer of the operatic form. Gluck spent ten years of his life in Italy, where although his operas were not highly acclaimed or noteworthy, they were successful. On one occasion, he played one of his Italian operas in London. It was not well received because Handel was the dominating composer of operas there. Handel commented behind his back "Gluck knows no more counterpoint than mine cook (Kaufmann, 55-56)." Gluck eventually reformed his style and applied classic Greek principles to the Italian operatic form. His new operas showed growth and were full of drama, emotion, genuine orchestral accompaniment, powerful choruses, and dignified melodies and arias. By his fortieth birthday, Gluck had written twenty operas. Gluck wrote the now famous operas Orfeo ed Euridice, Alceste, Paris and Helen, Iphigenia in Aulis and Armide. Gluck's new style was hailed as modern, innovative, and almost revolutionary. Christoph Willibald Gluck made the operatic composers of the era seem "old hat". One critic is quoted as saying, "If the Greeks had had a musician, they would have had Gluck (Kaufmann, 56)."
Haydn, Franz Joseph (1732-1809) Austrian born and raised, Franz Joseph Haydn began his musical career as a choirboy in Vienna. While at school, scribbling music on paper became a favorite pastime of his. A man named Count Furnberg became the first patron of Haydn. Under the Count, Haydn played string quartets and composed his first eighteen quartets. He then went on to be a music director to the Count Morzin. At this time, he composed his Symphony No. 1, which was followed by over a hundred more. He then spent thirty years with the family of Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy. During those years, he composed five masses, forty string quartets, sixty symphonies, thirty clavier pieces, one hundred and five cello trios, and many different types of works for funerals, weddings, birthdays, and other celebrations. Symphonies No. 44 "Allegro", "Allegretto", "Adagio", "Presto", and No.104 1st mvmt., 2nd mvmt., 3rd mvmt., 4th mvmt., are among his more popular works. Some of Haydn's most famous pieces are the Minuet of the Ox, the Rasierquartet, the Kaiserquartett, The Creation and The Seasons. Furthermore, Franz Joseph Haydn is known as the father of the string quartet. Mozart has been quoted as saying, "From Papa Haydn I learned all I know about string quartets." He added extra instrumentation into the orchestra and sang his music with all his heart. Haydn is regarded today as one of the greatest composers in all of music history.
Mozart, Wofgang Amadeus (1756-1791) Austrian born, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was regarded to be the greatest child prodigy the world has ever known. At age four, he heard his older sister playing a harpsichord minuet. Mozart begged his father to let him try the piece, and by ear, he played the piece perfectly. Throughout his life, tragedy struck. He was one of the most talented composers ever to walk the face of the earth, yet he led a life filled with much unhappiness. Upon traveling to Italy, Mozart fell in love with the Italian opera. One of his most famous peras is The Escape from the Seraglio, in which the heroine was named after his wife Constanze. Although many of the people in Vienna greatly praised this opera, Mozart's patron, Emperor Joseph, was not a fan of the style. Even though Mozart had his streaks of bad luck and his family was often in debt, his marriage to Costanze held many moments of happiness. On Sunday mornings, Haydn and two other musician friends from Vienna would show up at Mozart's residence and would play string quartets. Haydn is quoted as telling Mozart's father, "I declare to you upon my honor that I consider your son the greatest composer that I have ever heard (Kaufmann, 67)." Mozart composed many operas of which his most loved are The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi Fan Tutte. His last opera, The Magic Flute, has charm and intelligence, even though it was written when he was sick and depressed. Ironically, during the same year that he wrote his last opera, a stranger approached Mozart and asked him to write a Requiem Mass. Although the stranger's motives and identity were unclear, Motzart began writing the Requiem Mass that was requested. When it was half finished, Mozart's sickness took a turn for the worse, and he died. The Requiem Mass would be his last composition. When he died the piece included (including Requiem Aeternam, Kyrie Eleison, Dies Irae, and Confutatis, Lacrimosa. Although he only lived to age 35, Mozart is regarded as a prominent musical genius.

The Baroque Era (1600-1750 C.E.)

The Baroque Era (1600-1750 C.E.)
The term Baroque era describes the style or period of European music between the years of 1600 and 1750. The term Baroque was derived from a Portuguese word meaning "a pearl of irregular shape." The word Baroque was initially used to imply strangeness, abnormality and extravagance, applying more to art than music. It is only in the 20th century that this term has been employed to refer to a period in music history. When compared with its predecessors, Baroque music can be seen as being highly ornate, lavishly texturized, and intense. The music of this time period was characterized by rich counterpoint and a highly decorated melodic line. The music of this period has a number of defining characteristics including the use of the basso continuo and the belief in the doctrine of the affections. The doctrine of affections allowed composers to express emotions and feelings in their compositions. Another distinguishing characteristic of the Baroque era was the emphasis on contrast of volume, texture, and pace in the music, as compared to music of the late Renaissance which did not concentrate on these elements. In addition, Baroque music broke away from the harshness of the Medieval and early Renaissance style with new emphasis on the use of vocal and instrumental color. Secular types of music were now in abundance and used as widely as those of the liturgical musical styles. Imitative polyphony (more than one line of music) still was an extremely important factor in writing and playing music, while the homophonic method (a musical technique that displays a vast separation amongst the melody line and the accompaniment) was gaining acceptance and use quite rapidly. This homophonic style eventually became dominant in instrumental forms of music as well. Musical works containing a continuo part in which a keyboard (usually an organ or harpsichord) and a bass instrument (usually a bassoon or a cello) helped to convey the harmonic support of chords under the melodic lines. Although homophonic music was becoming increasingly popular during this time in music history, new forms of polyphonic music were also developing simultaneously. Similar to composers during the Renaissance, composers during this period felt that the art of counterpoint was essential to their artistry. Two extremely strict forms of imitative polyphony, cannons
Baroque opera developed from the stories of ancient Greek tragedy. Italian musicians sought to express the emotion and depth of these Greek tragedies and thus integrated them into their own modern form, the opera. There are certain things that make up an opera. The music, orchestra, libretto, performers, costuming, and stage design (complete with scenery and lighting). There would almost always be some sort of solo part, whether it be a solo aria, duet, or trio. The opera would open with the overture, the instrumental piece that the orchestra would play to introduce the performance. Along with the orchestra a chorus was also present in the opera.
Italian Opera Florentine Opera At the end of the 1500s, a group of Florentine noblemen wanted to bring back ancient Greek tragedy. Calling themselves the Camerata, they created the stil rappresentativo, or theater style. This was a new style of singing of drama, and, consequently, became the earliest operas. This new form of music developed because composers of the polyphonic madrigal style were looking for ways to convey dramatic expression. This new "theater style" became prevalent and was used consistently in opera. Roman Opera In the 1630s, Rome became the center of opera. Roman opera differed from the Italian form in that it focused more on religious subjects than on Greek mythology. Roman opera also employed the use of its chorus to a greater extent. The aria and the recitative were beginning to become more distinct and greatly differed from one another. The intermezzi, a comedic interlude between acts, would be the model for the future comedic opera style.
Venetian Opera Venice became the center of Italian opera in the early to mid 1600s. In 1637, the first public opera house, the Teatro San Cassiano, opened its doors in the city of Venice. The Venetian opera had its own special attributes. It used less choral and orchestral music and placed more emphasis on formal arias as well as on elaborate stage machinery. The bel canto, or "beautiful singing" style, started to appear. This style placed more focus on vocal elegance than on dramatic expression. Two final characteristics of venetian opera were its complex and improbable plots and the prototype of its overture, which was a short instrumental fanfare performed at the beginning of the opera.
Neopolitan Opera European opera was dominated by the Neopolitan opera form during the later 1600s and early 1700s. During this period, operas became more artificial and formalized from the dramatic standpoint. An A-B-A sectional structure, called the da capo aria, and a siciliana, another aria in a minor key with six-eight meter and slow tempo, were widely used. As far as other components of the Neopolitan opera, the orchestra’s role was greatly diminished and the chorus was almost nonexistent. Recitatives were now being used, although they did not hold the same level of importance as the aria. The recitativo secco, or dry recitative, which had a declamatory melody with sparse continuo accompaniment, and the recitative accompagnato, which used and orchestral accompaniment were featured. A compromise between these two main types of musical form, the aria and the recitative, emerged in the creation of the arioso. Male sopranos, or castratti, were the "superstars" of opera, with their showy and often improvisational use of vocal technique. The sinfonia, or Italian overture, was developed with a fast-slow-fast scheme. It would later develop into what is now known as the classical symphony.
French Opera and Ballet French opera didn’t develop until the second half of the 1600s. It was inspired by popular French dramas and from court ballet. The French took opera and made it their own, by putting unique characteristics into the basic Italian opera's mainframe. The French overture became common. It placed a unique spin on the traditional overture. It was made up of two repeating sections; the first was in slow tempo and dotted rhythm, while the second was in lively tempo and fugal texture. French opera also made less use of virtuosity and paid attention to the accentuation of the literature. It used shorter and simpler dance-like airs, more expressive and melodic recitatives, and put greater importance on the drama. It also added ballet and increased the use of the orchestra. BALLET During the Renaissance, it was typical in France for court dances with scenery and costumes to take place. This was an early form of ballet. However, the first actual “ballet” or extant ballet didn’t occur until 1581. It was called the Ballet Comique de la Reine. It is important to note that in the beginning, royalty would take part in the ballet, a tradition that started at the court of King Louis XIV at Versailles. Additionally, Lully and Moliere worked together to create a new form of ballet, the Comedie-ballet, a combination of a play and ballet. Beginning with Lully, ballets were entered into operas. He called this tragedies-lyriques or opera-ballets.
OPERA IN ENGLAND English Opera never advamced the popularity it had in both France and Italy. Since Italian operas were typically performed in the city of London, the English did not feel the need to make their own operatic form. Instead, they were more involved in theater music forms, especially that of the Masque, Incidental and Entr’acte. Masque A Masque was an extravagant play performed privately for nobility. It was a play based on an allegory or mythology and had songs, dances, poetry, sometimes recitatives, and instrumental pieces. Incidental and Entr’acte music Incidental music was composed to be played during the action scenes in plays. Entr’acte music was to be performed between acts or scenes in a play, with instrumental pieces called curtain tunes or act tunes. Some incidental and entr’acte music was so complete and developed in some works, that the play could almost be seen as a true opera.
COMIC OPERA The opera seria was little too serious for some, and, consequently, the comedic opera appeared in the early 1700s as a way to lighten the emotions of the time. In it, parody, satire, and humor were present. Comedic opera had some general characteristics. Spoken dialogue replaced the recitatives of serious opera, except in Italian comic opera. The characters, aria texts, and melodies of serious operas were often parodied, and subjects were now light, frivolous, and humorous. Small ensemble groups and choirs were used at the conclusion of acts. Commonplace characters replaced the exalted or heroic figures of serious operas and popular tunes replaced the dramatic and formal arias. Some famous types of comedic opera are the Italian opera buffa, the French opera comique, and the English ballad opera.
VOCAL CHAMBER MUSIC This was a form of music that was non-theatrical less important than opera, and composed for a few performers and an intimate audience in a small room. Solo Song Solo song was vocal music that was a solo piece for one performer. By the 17th century, a huge number of solo songs had developed. This form was most famous in Spain, England, Germany, and Italy. Often, it would have lute accompaniment to go along with the performer's voice. Chamber Cantata The Chamber cantata developed after 1650. It was a non-theatrical composition, short in length, and based on texts of a narrative character. It was written for one or two solo voices with an accompaniment by the basso continuo. It had secco recitatives alternating with da capo arias, usually two or three of each.
The Baroque Era Instrumental
The Baroque Era brought monumental changes to instrumental music. During this time, instrumental music became just as important as vocal music both in quality and quantity, as many new developments occurred in the instrumental world.
General Characteristics During the Baroque Era, the use of imporvisation increased. This change was most important in instrumental music. However, as important as it was, improvisation caused problems when musicians attemped to understand and perform Baroque music accurately. Basso continuo, or figured bass, was purely an instrumental concept. It is music that is played by one or more bass instruments and a keyboard instrument. Basso continuo gave bass parts an importance of their own in all areas of ensemble music. It is one of the most distinct features of the Baroque Era as a whole. Thematic variation occured in all aspects of instrumental music, during this time period. In addition to thematic variation, sequencing was also used. This was a repetition of melody patterns on successively higher or lower pitches. It became a typical part of instrumental music during the mid-Baroque period. Another characteristic of the Baroque Era was the distinction between the chamber ensemble and the orchestra. This started to take place around the late 1600s. Equal tempered tuning of keyboard instruments was now commonplace. The old method of tuning, which was called intonation was no longer practiced. Bach's The Well Tempered Clavier was composed to show equality of keys in the new tuning system.
INSTRUMENTS OF THE BAROQUE ERA The Baroque Era saw the continuation of all the instruments that were used during the Renaissance. During this period, there were mechanical and technological improvements to the instruments, and they started to develop into the instruments that we know today. Another important development of the Baroque Era was the development of the violin family, which occurred at the end of the 1600s. Keyboard Instruments Keyboard instruments were used for basso continuo parts and solo music. They were involved in a major portion of the instrumental literature of the time. During this era, three types of keyboards existed; the clavichord, the organ, and the harpsichord. Clavichord The clavichord produced sound by striking a metal wedge striking against a string when a key was pressed. The sound quality was weak, but the instrument was able to produce some dynamics. It was mainly used in Germany and usually played as a solo instrument or in a small ensemble.
Organ The Baroque organ was more powerful than its predecessor, the Renaissance organ. Organs were mostly associated with church music and used as solo instruments or accompaniment instruments. A vast growth in organ literature took place during this period. Harpsichord The Harpsichord was very popular and was known by various names in different parts of Europe. In Italy, it was called a clavicembalo. In England, it was referred to as a virginal. In France it was termed a clavecen, and in Germany, it was named klavier. The harpsichord usually had two manuals or keyboards. It's tone was produced with quills which plucked the strings mechanically every time a key was pressed. The tone of the harpsichord was stronger than the clavichord but it could not produce dynamics. The harpsichord was the main instrument employed in the basso continuo. It is one of the most distinctive sounds of the Baroque Era and was the most favored instrument in solo music. String Instruments The principal string instruments of the 1600s were the viol family. The new violin family of instruments slowly replaced them. The violin soon became the new leader of the stringed instruments, and its sound became the dominant timbre in late Baroque ensemble music. The bass viol commonly known as the contrabass, or double bass was still utilized, even though the other viols died out. During the 1600s, the lute started to lose its dominance in the music world. A few pieces of lute music were still being produced, mainly in France and Germany.
Wind Instruments During the Baroque era the principal woodwind instruments used were the bassoon, flute, and oboe. Older end-blown recorders were still in use during the late Baroque period. The transverse flute started to become a common solo and ensemble instrument. Brass instruments such as horns, trumpets, and trombones were used in large ensembles, but rarely as solo instruments. Percussion Instruments Timpani were the only percussion instruments in common use at this time. They were used sparingly in the orchestra. FORM During the beginning of the Baroque Era, the Renaissance forms continued to dominate the musical world. During the second half of the century, there were distinct changes, as new musical forms appeared. Fugal Forms The early fugal forms were carried over from the Renaissance Era. They included the fantasia, canzona(which was the forerunner precursor of the sonata), and the capriccio. These were all written for keyboard instruments. By the mid 1600’s, these forms were replaced by the fugue. The Fugue of the 1600’s was monothematic. Each voice stated the theme. The subject was played in the tonic keyand answered in the dominant key. Fugues were composed for all media, including choral ensembles. They were also written as independent pieces and as movements in larger works.
Variation Forms Thematic variations were used in various forms such as cantus firmus, canzona, and dance suites. Keyboard instruments mainly carried out these variation forms. Ground, which was a type of variation used in England, had a short recurrent theme in the bass line and a continually changing counterpoint. Improvised variations on a ground are called divisions. Variations were also called passacaglia and chaconne. Cantus firmus variations were important in Germany. They restated the chorale melody completely and had a different contrapuntal setting each time. Dance Suite Dance music retained its importance from past musical eras. Suites or partitas were the main dance forms. Harpsichords, chamber ensembles, and orchestras all played dance music. There was no standard number or order for the movements in the suites, and usually the movements were in the same key. The form for each dance movement was binary, meaning it had two sections that were repeated. The first section modulated to the dominant key and the second section began in a contrasting key and then moved back to tonic key at the conclusion. Common dance movements that were specific to the Baroque Era were the courante, gigue, allemande, and sarabande. Every now and then, other forms of nondance movements appeared in suites such as airs, fugues, and variations.
Chorale Prelude This was the most important category of Baroque organ music and was used primarily in church music. The cantus firmus was the most common chorale prelude. It had longer note values and a fast moving counterpoint. The cantus firmus could show up in any part of the piece. Sometimes it would appear in the pedels, while at other times each phrase of the chorale would appear in imitative counterpoint preceding the cantus firmus in longer notes. A coloration chorale stated the chorale melody in the top part as a cantus firmus and disguised the original melody by using ornamention. The chorale partite was a set of variations on a chorale tune. Each variation was called a verse. The chorale melody was modified but otherwise kept intact as cantus firmus. Only the accompanying counterpoint changed. Improvisatory Forms Certain keyboard forms such as the prelude, fantasia, and toccata appeared regularly during the Baroque Era. There were no specific rules for these improvisatory forms. They shared some common items such as contrapuntal textures, rapid scales, sustained chords, and figuration. Improvisation lacked distinct thematic material and formal unity. Sonata The sonata was a multi-movement work that was composed for various solo instruments and for small chamber groups during the Baroque era. The term sonata appeared in the early 1500s in Italy. There were three types of sonatas: an unaccompanied solo sonata that was written for the violoin or cello; an accompanied solo sonata that was written for different instruments with basso continuo; and a trio sonata that was written for two solo instruments and basso continuo played by a keyboard instrument or cello. The church sonata evolved in Italy after 1650. It had a number of movements that contrasted in tempo and texture. By the end of the Baroque Era, church sonatas were written in four movements. The tempo of the movements followed a slow-fast-slow-fast plan. They were meant to be played in parts of a church service and used the organ to perform the continuo parts. The chamber sonata or sonata da camera was a suite of dance movements. They were named corrente, giga, sarabanda, and allemanda. Harpsichords were used to play the continuo in a chamber sonata. By the late Baroque era, there were few distinctions between church and chamber sonatas. They both included dance names for some movements and only had tempo indications on some of the sonatas. Tower sonatasor turmsonaten were composed for a small group of wind instruments. They were meant to be played at certain times of the day from church steeples or towers. Keyboard sonatas were solo sonatas for the harpsichord and appeared at the end of the 1600s. These sonatas represented a very small percentage of Baroque instrumental compositions.
Orchestral Music The Baroque orchestra did not have standardization. It was composed mainly of strings, while wind instruments and percussion instruments were used less frequently. The bass part of the orchestra played the basso continuo. Instruments of different kinds doubled on each part as there was not much color definition to the Baroque era’s orchestration. The solo concerto was fully developed towards the end of the Baroque Era. It was a concerto for one instrument and an orchestra. It was written in three movements using a fast-slow-fast plan. The concerto grosso was an important form of Baroque orchestral literature. It consisted of a group of two or three solo instruments (concertino) playing in opposition to the orchestra as a whole (tutti). It was often played in alternating and contrasting sections.
The Baroque Era Composers
Bach, Johann Sebastian (1685-1750) Johann Sebastian Bach was known as "Old Bach", a name given to him by King Frederick of Prussia. This title was given to him because of his reputation as a very serious person. Bach had an innate musical talent. As a child, he learned to play the organ and the clavichord and sang in a choir. He was able to support himself by his music at the age of fifteen and held several organist positions in nearby towns. He was a master at composing concertos, cantatas, oratorios, chorales, piano inventions, and other religious music. The F Major and A Minor piano inventions are very well known. For most of his life, the organ and clavichord were his instruments of choice. He is considered the father of counterpoint. Bach was not introduced to the piano until he was sixty years old. Once he discovered the instrument, Bach wrote a six-part fugue for King Frederick as a "musical offering". Today that fugue is considered one of the most remarkable fugues in all of music history. Later on in life Bach was stricken with blindness. He underwent an operation to try to correct the blindness, but it was unsuccessful and only aggravated his condition. As a result, he suffered a paralytic stroke and died. He is considered one of the most influential composers of all time.
Corelli, Archangelo (1653-1713) Archangelo Corelli was born in Fusignano, Italy in 1653. He was a violinist who composed concerti grossiand trio sonatas. His composition style is considered very typical of the Baroque period. A distinguishing feature of Corelli is that he only composed music for instrumentalists. His compositions were among some of the most popular pieces of the time period. His music was richly spirited and had a touching and refined melodic sense.
Handel, Georg Friedrich (1685-1759) Born in the year 1685, George Friedrich Handel became the second most prominent composer of the High Baroque era. He was second only to J.S . Bach. Handel composed sonatas, concertos, operas, and modern oratorios. He helped develop the modern opera and modern oratorio form further, while his sonatas and concertos made great use of his melodic techniques. A famous song from the oratorio Judas Maccabeus, is "Sing Unto God." Another famous work that is recognized world wide is the "Hallelujah Chorus" (from the Messiah) which is also written in oratorio form.
Monteverdi , Claudio (1567-1643) Claudio Monteverdi was born in Italy in 1567. Monteverdi is most famous for his contributions to the early operatic form. He was an Italian composer of opera, sacred, and secular music who was ahead of his time in musical technique. As the Medieval era was a very conservative time in music, Monteverdi went against the grain. He felt that rules should be broken when they had to be, especially if it was in the interests of meaning and expressiveness. Monteverdi was very interested in new musical techniques. Far advanced for his time, he employed a complete orchestra as opposed to using a few instruments which played the same part. This yielded a crude polyphony, much unlike the typical sound of the time. Monteverdi taught the viol section of the orchestra to play with bows instead of plucking strings. He further introduced tremolo and pizzicato to the strings. Monteverdi had a hard time explaining to the violists that they had to play a single note sixteen times in rapid succession. When he suggested plucking strings pizzicato to the violists, they almost revolted against him At age forty, Monteverdi composed his first opera, called Orfeo. This was an instant success, as it was written expressively and dramatically. His second opera, Arianna, received just as much, if not more, praise for being emotionally overwhelming. A lament in Arianna, called "Lasciatemi Morir" often moved the audience to tears. Other famous works of Monteverdi's are his operas Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patri, L'incoronazion di Poppea, and Il Combattimento di Clorinda. He died at the age of seventy-six but left a lasting impression on the musical world, one that would change the face of music forever.
Purcell, Henry 1659-1695 Throughout his life, English born Henry Purcell composed music in all forms and styles. He is most known for his lively trumpet voluntaries and sweet vocal airs. He was also a composer of multiple forms, such as court, church, stage, and chamber music. At age six he became a choirboy in the Chapel Royal. When his voice changed at age fourteen, he then became the "keeper, maker, mender, repairer and tuner of the regalls, organs, virginals, flutes, and recorders and all other kind of wind instruments, in ordinary, without fee, to His Majesty (Kaufmann, 103)." By the time Purcell was fifteen years old, he was paid two pounds (or ten dollars) a year to tune the organ in Westminster Abbey. By age twenty, he became organist of Westminster Abbey. Additionally, it was his job to compose music for the King's violins. This task helped him to attain an audience for his organ works, songs, and instrumental compositions. Some of Henry Purcell's more famous works are A Song to Welcome Home His Majesty from Windsor and They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships. Dido and Aenas is his only surviving opera. This opera contains the powerful musical pieces "Lament" and "When I Am Laid in Earth." It is still performed often today. His last anthem, Thou Knowest Lord, the Secrets of our Hearts, was so emotionally written that it was played at the funeral of Queen Mary. Six months later, this piece was performed in Westminster Abbey at Purcell's own funeral. Today he is remembered as one of the greatest composers who ever lived and is known for his exceptional and pleasant use of harmonies.
Rameau, Jean-Philippe (1683-1764) Born in 1683, Jean Philippe Rameau became one of the greatest French theoreticians of all time. He broke the rules on harmonic practice of the time, and suggested new forms through his music. The Nouvelles Suites Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, and Gavotte written for the clavecen clavecendisplay some of these new principles. He was courageous in his philosophies, inventive in terms of harmony, and had an extreme command of orchestration. He was always interested in adding new effects, such as storm scenes, and choruses into his music.
Vivaldi, Antonio (1680-1743) Antonio Vivaldi was an Italian composer who was well known as a violinist and composer of solo violin concertos. He had a different musical philosophy regarding composition. He felt that the soloist and orchestra should be in musical conflict with one another, (similar to the give and take that happens when two people are speaking to one another). He is believed to have composed over 750 works of music. He set precedence by adding drama and strong rhythm to basic harmonies. Vivaldi previewed what was to become the sonata-allegro form and the typical sound of the 18th century. One Of Vivaldi's most famous works is the Four Seasons, a four part concerto. Each section is named after a season. "La Primavera", "L'estate", "L'inverno", and "L'Autunno".