CCSF MUS27A Symposium musician with his seven-stringed lyre beside the fluted column of a building, ca. 460 b.c.  University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology (c) Instructor: Larry Ferrara  
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Music Appreciation
Week 7



BAROQUE (1600-1750)

A musical period from 1600, (with the invention of opera), to 1750, (the death of Bach). Baroque was a derogatory term used in the 17th Century to describe any thing over-decorated, excessive, flamboyant, or grotesque. The art work was dazzling and elaborate, the architecture was embellished and the furniture was full of filigree. The music was extravagantl, ornamented, full of polyphony, and rhythm. The ever decreasing power of the Church gave rise to the absolute monarchs, kings and aristocrats who sought to celebrate themselves in opulent, extravagant art, architecture and music. This was at the same time the Age of Science. The scientific climate of the time led to a new emphasis on logic and control. Newton developed the theory of gravity, Galileo developed the telescope, functional harmony came into being, the tempered tuning system became standard, and major and minor scales replaced the old church modes in importance.

Baroque music room.

Baroque music room.

This new systematic approach manifested itself musically in carefully controlled instrumental forms such as fugue, passacaglia, chaconne, concerto, concerto grosso, dance suite, variations and ground bass. It was a time when composers wanted their music to deal with passionate emotions. It was the job of the composer to find the musical expression that would give and audience the feeling of "affection" i.e.. sorrow, heroism, devotion, etc. The Baroque period was the beginning for what almost all musical styles are today. Composers include: J. S. Bach, Antonio Vivaldi and for voices and Orchestra George F. Handel.



The notion of a concerto is based on the interplay between a soloist or soloists. Concerto means to contend or strive as in a competition. The contest in a concerto is between the soloist and the orchestra. In a concerto there is one soloist playing with or against an orchestra. In a concerto grosso there is a group of soloists playing with or against an orchestra. The main theme of a concerto grosso is called a "ritornello." A ritornello form movement is based on a periodic return of a central ritornello theme.




A motive, phrase, or theme in the bass repeated again and again as the basis for a composition. A basso continuo is when a bass instrument that very often plays this bass line which is reinforced with "continuous" chords or connecting harmonies played by a harpsichord. Most Ground Bass forms in the Baroque period had florid polyphony above the steady Ground. Certainly that is the case in both "Canon in D" by Johann Pachebel, as well as the "Passacaglia" in C minor by Johann Sebastian Bach. The example below is from Pachelbel's Canon which is more of a ground bass with it's steady bass line than a canon.




Baroque dancers.

Baroque dancers.

A collection of dance inspired movements. Each movement is named according to the type of dance and each movement intends to capture the feeling and spirit of each of the court dances. Suite means to follow as one movement follows another in a dance suite. Similar to use of the word a “suite of rooms” each connected to each other. The common movements and their most frequent order are:

Prelude – an introduction to the collection of dances usually freer and less steady in its rhythmic design. It is the only non-dance movement of the set. The prelude prepares the listener for what is going to follow and is often in the form of a free improvisation.

Allemande – a graceful moderate tempo, duple meter court dance. In Italy and parts of France the allemande uses many rapid notes suggesting flowing movements in which dance partners always keep both hands joined. Other French type allemandes contain short dotted figures which create a music jerk or stutter suggesting regal ness or nobility.

Courante – French for “running” the courante suggests dancers running or jumping while they dance. The courante is a triple meter dance and the tempo is fast. When dancers weren’t running in the courante they were gliding along the dance floor while making gallant gestures.

Sarabande – a slow, elegant, triple meter dance. Usually the most expressive musical movement of the suite. The Sarabande had sensual movements and has a physical and consequently a musical emphasis on the second count of the triple meter.

Bourree, Gavotte or Minuet:

Bourree – a lively dance in duple meter. The bourree begins with an upbeat and is usually strong and rhythmic because the early bourree’s had dancers dance in wooden shoes which added additional clatter to the music.

Gavotte – named after peasants from southern France (gavots) the gavotte is an energetic dance with lots of leaping. Because of the sentimental nature of the courtly dance, the music for the gavotte is often tuneful and the most musically accessible of all the movements.

Minuet – the most beloved dance of Louis the XIV. The minuet is a graceful couples dance in triple meter and may be the predecessor to the modern day waltz. In the dance of the minuet the man pays homage to his partner by deeply bowing. Then the male dancer guides the female through intricate gliding and bending motions. Hand in hand both dancers perform dainty retreats and approaches. The word ”minuet” means small and is taken from the minute motions of the dance.

Gigue – The fastest movement of the dance suite and the most vigorous. Most gigues have a galloping type of rhythm and the meter is usually in compound (a combination of duple and triple). The compound meter is most noticeable in the frequent use of running triplets. The gigue appears as the last movement of the dance and it is typical to hear imitation in the voices which is unusual for a dance movement. The driving rhythm of the gigue is an exciting way to end the series of dance movements.

Listen to a Gavotte from Handel's Water Music:




Baroque orchestra.

Baroque orchestra.

The core of the Baroque orchestra was strings. The Basic Baroque Orchestra contained violins (divided into two groups, called violins 1 and violins 2), Violas, Cellos and Bass viol (playing the same music as the cellos an octave lower. To this was added a keyboard instrument, generally a harpsichord.

Woodwinds and brass instruments were sometimes added to the string orchestra or Basic Baroque Orchestra. This was called the Festive Baroque Orchestra. These orchestras were assembled for special occasions of a festive nature. The Festive Baroque Orchestras had a jovial, grand, open and brilliant sound and it contained violins (divided into two groups, called violins 1 and violins 2), Violas, Cellos and Bass viol (playing the same music as the cellos an octave lower. To this was added 2 oboes, 3 trumpets, 2 timpani (kettledrums) and a keyboard instrument, generally a harpsichord.

Listen to a Festive Baroque Orchestra:




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