The Baroque Period
ancient greece and rome ·
the age of the renaissance ·
the baroque period ·
the classical period ·
the romantic period ·
the jazz explosion
Towards the end of the Renaissance period, many disgruntled composers in Italy grew tired of polyphonic music. Therefore, these composers decided to forge a new trend in music: homophonic. As a result of this, the Baroque era was born. The Baroque period is marked by three things: the shift from a polyphonic style to homophonic style, the beginnings of the opera, and the construction of a recognizable symphony.
During the medieval period of music, all music was written in monophonic style. However, the Renaissance period quickly changed this with the introduction of the polyphonic style. Yet, this too grew tiresome to most of the composers in Italy. Therefore, a group of Italian composers created a homophonic style of music. This style was based on Greek music and is different from the other styles because it was less intricate, had frequent emotional contrast, an easily understandable text, and an interplay of various voices and instruments. This style of music was much more frequently used in operas then any other type of drama. Claudio Monteverdi was the most famous opera composer of the baroque period.
Ever since the ancient Greeks, composers have written pieces of music that on some occasions used the lyre and other times woodwinds. The medieval and renaissance periods are very similar in this manner. Moreover, composers in these periods rarely wrote their music on paper. What a musician of any given instrument played was usually improvised. However, by the middle of the baroque period, a stable ensemble, known as the "baroque orchestra" was established. This was in part due to the printing press. In the baroque style of orchestra, each instrument had its own technique and style of playing. The baroque orchestra can be broken down into three sections. The first section is composed of an accompaniment group called "Basso continuo." The Basso continuo is very similar to the piano/bass/drums rhythm section of a jazz band. This section played a continuous accompaniment beneath prominent melody parts. The next section is a string group, which performed both melody and harmony. The final group was a variable group of winds and drums (oboes, bassoons, trumpets, timpani, and the like). Basso continuo and strings were the regulars of the Baroque orchestra. Other instruments were added when a composer called for them.
As mentioned earlier, the opera was beginning to take hold of Europe during the baroque period. This was solely inspired by the use of the homophonic style. The goal of opera was to prove a more direct and communicative music style to an audience. It was possible to do so with a polyphonic style of music, however, the meaning of the music could become obscure or confusing to an audience because of its complex style. Most of the early European population was not able to see and enjoy the operas because they were strictly limited for the viewing pleasure of the rich. However, over time this came to change with the opening of public opera houses. Once opera was open to the public, opera became extremely popular with the Europeans. The opera soon became the testing ground by composers for new techniques and ideas.
Perhaps what the baroque period could be best known for is the fact that it was the bridge or transition point between the old and new ways of music. During the beginning of the baroque period, masses lost a lot of their popularity. Because of this, the Roman Catholic Church was forced to change its style of music. Towards the end of the Renaissance period and the beginning of the baroque period many Catholics became annoyed with the fact that they could not sing in the church. Because Martin Luther and his revolution allowed the people to sing in the church, this forced the Catholic Church to change its ways since singing in church was what its members desired to do. Beyond this transition, another transition occurred during this period. Before the baroque period, many composers did not have a written record of their work. However, composers such as Monteverdi, Bach, and Handel recorded many of their works down and had them reprinted due to the printing press. Finally, the baroque period also set the stage for change. This change was mostly to take place in the organization of the orchestra and symphony. Now, the stage is set for the transition to the classical period.
Links and Further Reading|
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