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Renaissance Music
1400 - 1600
Renaissance Period - 1400 - 1600
• Renaissance means 'rebirth' and denotes a period in history where
there was a resurgence of interest in culture and learning based on
the ideas of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
• It was a period of great progress in science and astronomy while
great explorers from European nations ventured over the oceans on
great voyages of discovery.
• Sacred choral music still remained as the most important music but
composers started to take a much greater interest in composing
secular music - music for use out with the church.
Composers of the Period
Thomas Tallis 1505 - 1585
William Byrd 1543 - 1623
Orlando Gibbons 1583 -1625
The Tallis Scholars - Thomas Tallis - Miserere Nostri
Thomas Tallis (c. 1505 – 23 November
1585) was an English composer. Tallis
flourished as a church musician in 16th
century Tudor England. He occupies a
primary place in anthologies of English
church music, and is considered among
the best of England's early composers. He
is honoured for his original voice in
English musicianship. No contemporary
portrait of Tallis survives: the earliest,
painted by Gerard van der Gucht, dates
from 150 years after Tallis died, and there
is no certainty that it is a likeness.
William Byrd - Mass for Five Voices - Gloria in Excelsis Deo
William Byrd (1540 or late 1539 – 4 July
1623) was an English composer of the
Renaissance. He wrote in many of the
forms current in England at the time,
including various types of sacred and
secular polyphony, keyboard and consort
String Instruments
Viol Family
The viol (also known as the Viola da
gamba) is any one of a family of string
instruments developed in the mid-late
15th century and used primarily in the
Renaissance and Baroque periods. They
are NOT violins!
The most important string instrument of
the period. The instruments had six
strings over a fretted fingerboard and a
flat back with sloping shoulders, and
were played with a bow which was more
curved than the present-day bow. The
instruments sat upright in front of the
player, the smaller ones sitting on the
player’s knees and the larger ones
between, much like a present-day cello
a small group of musicians
performing together, typically
playing instrumental music of the
Renaissance period. AH
• Usually with 12 strings tuned in pairs stretched over a fretted
fingerboard like a present-day guitar.
• The body had a pear-shaped sound box with the neck bent back
almost at right angles to the fret board.
• It was used as a solo instrument and to accompany singers.
a solo song, although occasionally
with more parts. Accompanied by
lute. AH
Brass Instruments
An early kind of trombone which had a
much smaller bell than the present-day
instrument and as a result it had quite
a round and mellow tone.
Early instruments had been a straight tube like the
fanfare trumpets used by the military today, but
without valves. This tube was now folded up,
similar to the shape and looks of a present-day
trumpet but without the valves.
Woodwind Instruments
There was a whole family of recorders from very large to very small to cover
the whole spectrum of sound and all with simple finger holes to change the
pitch of notes.
Sacred choral music
The earliest music to be written
down. They were sung in unison by
monks and based on the various
modes which were used at this
These chants were sung during the service within the church as processionals,
for the offering, for specific dates in the church calendar, or just as part of the
This plainsong, often called ‘Gregorian chants’ after the name of Pope
Gregory, who died in 604, was the first music to be written down and was to be
fundamental in the development of western music over the coming centuries.
is a polyphonic choral composition that sets to portions of the liturgy
(principally that of the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and
Lutheranism) to music.
The usual words that are set to music are known as the Ordinary.
The Ordinary consists of five parts:
Kyrie (Lord have mercy upon us….)
Gloria (Glory be to thee….)
Credo (I believe in God the Father….)
Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy….)
Agnus Dei (O Lamb of God…)
religious music for performance in the reformed or protestant church.
Often polyphonic, a cappella style of the composition with imitative
entries through all the voices. Sung in English. AH
a short composition with Latin text for performance in a Roman
Catholic church. AH
Secular Choral Music
a secular vocal music composition. Traditionally
polyphonic, madrigals are unaccompanied and through composed.
Madrigals often include examples of Word Painting. AH
This was a light-hearted madrigal that was strophic in style (verse
repeating and the same music for each verse), with each verse ending
with a fa-la chorus.
The music was often more homophonic in style (more chordal) than the
madrigal proper. AH
A pavane was a slow, stately dance with two beats in a bar which was
usually performed before a galliard. AH
A galliard usually followed a performance of a pavane and was a
quicker dance, with three beats in a bar. AH
During this period composers also experimented with collections of
dances played together as a ‘suite’.