Download The Renaissance 4/4 Other Features of the Style

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Based on the writings of Anna
Butterworth: ‘Stylistic Harmony’
(OUP 1992)
NB To understand the slides herein, you must play though all
the sound examples to hear the principles in action.
The sound of the music will make sense of the rules.
Other Features of the Style
1. Chromatic Writing
Expression through chromaticism (using
semitones as dissonance) came into its
own in the Renaissance (1475-1600).
Because dissonance sounds ‘painful’, it
became associated with emotions of
‘grief’ and ‘despair’ + with the depiction
of the ‘weird’ and ‘fantastical’. This is
especially true when a chromatic
descending line is used.
1. Chromatic Writing cont.
At the end of the 1500s, experiments
were made with re-tuning keyboard
instruments from just intonation (which
tuned a key perfectly) to equal
temperament (which ‘tweaked’ certain
pitches so that it became possible to
modulate to any key without it sounding
as if the new key was out of tune).
1. Chromatic Writing cont.
Nicola Vincentino (1511-ca1575) (possibly a
pupil of Adrian Willaert [1490-1562]),
invented the arcicembalo, a two-manual
keyboard tuned so that one could play in
most keys without sounding out of tune.
For more details see:
yboard and
1. Chromatic Writing cont.
Plan & modern realization Nicola
Vicentino’s arcicembalo
1. Chromatic Writing cont.
Nicola Vicentino (1511-ca1575)
1. Chromatic Writing cont.
Adrien Willaert (1490-1562). Flemish composer, possibly
Vicentino’s teacher. Founder of the Venetian School.
1. Chromatic Writing cont.
The composer Carlo
Gesualdo (1566-1613)
from Venosa is said to
have been influences
by Nicola Willaert’s
Gesualdo was one of
the most ‘chromatic’ of
madrigal composers.
Extract from madrigal by Gesualdo,
showing extreme chromaticism (play pp22-23)
There are examples of similar degrees of
chromaticism in the music of Thomas
Weelkes (1576-1623) (play p23)
2. The Harmonic ‘Instinct’ cont.
Did pre-Renaissance composers have a sense
of ‘tonality’? - Of course they did.
There is evidence of a key or tonal centre in the
music of Pérotin (d. 1225) and Machaut (d.
While polyphony (the principal musical texture
of the Renaissance) is pre-occupied with the
fitting together of horizontal lines,
homophonic harmony (chord progressions
where each part has more or less the same
rhythm) is in evidence e.g. in Palestrina’s
Stabat Mater and Tallis’s Spem in Alium...
2. The Harmonic ‘Instinct’ cont.
E.g. in Thomas Tallis’s Spem in Alium, along with the
words Respice humilitatem nostram (be mindful of
our loneliness), the music forms a progression with
more of a harmonic than a polyphonic sense, as C
major drops to A major (play p23):
2. The Harmonic ‘Instinct’
Feel the harmonic progressions in this homophonic
texture from Palestrina’s Stabat Mater (play p24):
2. The Harmonic ‘Instinct’ cont.
The theory of chords (harmony) is
complicated enough when concerned
with major and minor keys. When
dealing with modal harmony, things get
even more complex.
Two features of modal harmony are worth
bearing in mind when dealing with the
musical styles of the Renaissance...
(a) Chord on the Flattened Leading-Note
This chord was prevalent in modal harmony of
the Renaissance (play p24):
(b) Typical harmonic progressions:
I-iii E.g. (play p24):
3. Note Doubling
When writing 3-part polyphony, composers of the
Renaissance avoided doubling the following notes:
• leading notes
• dominant 7ths
• dissonances
• chromatically-altered notes.
This is because:
1. by their dissonance these notes were already
‘prominent’ and so did not need ‘doubling’ - which
unbalances the harmony.
2. ‘notes of motion’ need to be resolved. If they’re
doubled, that would result in parallel octaves!
3. Note Doubling cont.
When not functioning as a leading note, the major 3rd
was frequently doubled, but usually quitted (left) via
contrary motion. Such doubling usually occurred in
chord VI in a minor key when the progression
moves V-VI.
Write this progression out in E minor for example.
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