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 6



RENAISSANCE (1400-1650)

Renaissance mean “rebirth” or more importantly "rediscovery." What was rediscovered was the art, knowledge and humanistic values and esthetics of ancient Greece and Rome. This was a time there was explosion of knowledge, creativity, curiosity and reform in the church. Also, when Magellan sailed around the world, Columbus supposedly discovered America, Martin Luther led the Protestant reformation, humanistic thought focused on human life and accomplishments rather than on religious doctrine and the afterlife. Knowledge during the Renaissance was obtained from scholars rather than priests. The time period or the Renaissance in Western Europe was from about 1400 (1450 was the year the printing press was invented) to 1600 (the invention of opera). The imitative polyphonic Mass of the Renaissance fulfilled the tradition of church music performed in cathedrals. But music outside of the church played an increasingly important role as composers came to be employed by kings and nobility rather than by the church. Continuing the Medieval tradition of music for entertainment, listening or dancing to music increased in popularity. An educated person was often trained in music, sang madrigals or played the lute or vihuela. The instruments of the Renaissance were related to the same string, woodwind, brass, percussion and keyboard families that exist today. Renaissance composers continually tried to make their music more expressive, more relevant to Renaissance society and more reflective to their every day human experience. Composers for the mass include Josquin Desprez and Giovanni Palestrina the lute include Dowland and da Milano, and the vihuelists, Milan, Narvaez, Mudarra, Fuenllana and Pisador.



                              Sistine Madonna, details of the Angels,
The Sistine Madonna, details of the Angels, Raphael,1513-1514

The most substantial composition of the Renaissance. The main Roman Catholic service and the music written for it. A five movement form set to music. The five movements are Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnes dei. The great challenge for the composer was to link and unify the sections of the church service mass with vocal music. The Renaissance Mass was sung a cappella, was primarily in imitative polyphony and was written in four parts arranged Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass.


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                              Jouissance & a Renaissance Women's
Sermisy's Jouissance & a Renaissance Women's Consort

A secular vocal work for 4 to 6 voices, sung a cappella, essentially polyphonic in texture, light in character and employs "word painting". The madrigal is the most important secular genre to emerge during the Renaissance. It is in the madrigal that the Renaissance desire to make music more "expressive" is most clearly observed. In "word painting" the composers sought to musically illustrate the meaning of their texts.



The role of instrumentalist in the Renaissance was such that many of the best composers wrote for instruments with or without voices. The dance music tended to be more elaborate, more stylized and more artistic. Instruments and music for instruments developed significantly during this period. Instrumental music was to become one of the great glories of the Baroque era and the basis for this was laid in the Renaissance. Instruments often played along with singers in vocal music and sometimes performed vocal genres as instrumental pieces by themselves. The two most important dances in the Renaissance were the Pavane and the Galliard. The Pavane was a slow a stately dance in duple meter and the Galliard was a fast and lively dance in triple meter.

Typical instruments of the Renaissance:

Bosse, Abraham, Musical Society, c.

Bosse, Abraham
Musical Society, c. 1635
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

Viol or rebec - violin
  Shawm - oboe
  Crumhorn - bassoon
  Sackbut - trumpet or trombone
  Cornetto - clarinet
  Lute or vihuela - guitar
  Harpsichord - piano




Bartolomeo Veneto, Woman Playing a
                              Lute, 1520

Bartolomeo Veneto
Woman Playing a Lute, 1520
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.

A pear shaped instrument of Arabic origin ( stems from 'ud or al'ud) introduced to Europe partly through contact with the Moors in Spain and partly through the interest of returning Crusaders. Throughout Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the lute was the favorite instrument for use in homes, in barbershops and taverns. Much of the repertoire for the lute consists of short dance movements but most importantly the lute fantasia was developed. A fantasia for the lute was a free formed piece that could go in any musical direction the composer would see fit. A fantasia is a composition inspired by the imagination of the player. It may be that the quiet nature of the lute made it a difficult for people to hear in a dance hall and thus was more suited for intimate and dreamy pieces. The Renaissance lute had four to thirteen courses (as the double strings where called) tuned a fourth apart with the exception of a third between the third and second course (tuning the guitars third string to f# while leaving the remaining strings as they are will achieve a Renaissance lute tuning).




Angel Gabriel playing a horn
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Instruments from the Middle Ages
and Renaissance.

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