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The Baroque Period
Time of Turbulent Change
 Conquest of new worlds
 Rise of the middle class (against monarchy)
 Characterized by “appalling poverty and wasteful
luxury, magnificent idealism and savage oppression.”
 Art of the time period lends credence to the term
“Baroque” – which means exaggerated, abnormal or
The Creation of Adam,
Absolute Monarchy
 All arts and culture served the ruler
 Had own orchestras, opera troupes, chapel choirs
 Enjoyed stories about nobility, and composers saw
that they contained elements to flatter their patrons.
Other happenings
 Middle class created a culture of their own
 Music making in the home, and art of the era focused
on life of the common man and a celebration of life
 Age of discovery—from astronomy, physics,
mathematics to medicine
 Intensely devout period – many wars: Catholics vs.
Rise of Homophony
 Known as “monody” – a solo song with instrumental
 First cultivated by the Florentine Camerata
New Music – music should heighten the emotional power of
the text; named it “the expressive style.”
Other musical developments
 Figured bass – a short-cut for musicians consisting
of numbers written below the staff to tell the
“performer” what to play.
 Called “basso continuo” and consisted of two players:
often one keyboard player and one instrumentalist.
 Establishment of major-minor tonality and the rise
of the importance of a central tone, or tonic.
 New tuning system EQUAL TEMPERAMENT.
Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier
Musical Style
 Very rhythmic – often driving and forceful
 More use of dissonance for effect (might use it for a
particular word, i.e., death).
 Doctrine of the Affections – Music should suggest a
particular mood. Although used in the Renaissance
in the form of word painting, it was often the case
that a entire piece or a movement was based on a
single affection in the Baroque era.
Rise of the Virtuoso
 As instruments improved, so did the playing.
Composers wrote more demanding literature.
 Vocal followed
 Castrato
 Music added embellishments or decorations to the
written score. Performance practice of the time.