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Renaissance music started in the 1450 and began in Italy but soon
spread to the rest of Europe. This kind of music was less governed
by the church. Renaissance: the word means ‘rebirth’, and it
seemed that the glories of classical Greece were being reborn.
There are two main types of Renaissance music: church music, or
‘sacred’ music, and non-church or secular music. (There was folk
music too, but that was for ‘common’ people, so no one wrote it
down.) It still sounds very old, but it’s somehow more ‘normal’.
This is because music was moving towards the major and minor
scales we use today. Also, the rhythms are much smoother.
This was music independent of churches (i.e. none religious).
The main type was the song, lied (German), frottola (Italian),
chanson (French), madrigal (Italian) and villancico (Spanish).
• The style of renaissance church music is described
as choral polyphony (polyphonic, counterpoint,
contrapuntal), meaning more than one part.
Homophonic means moving in chords.
Monophonic means one melody line. Choral
polyphony was intended to be sung a cappella
(without instruments). The main forms were the
mass and the motet. They had four parts, based on
modes, but composers gradually added more
accidentals.
• One of the most noticeable differences between
Medieval and Renaissance styles, is that of
musical texture. Whereas a Medieval composer
tended to contrast the separate strands of his
music, a Renaissance composer aimed to blend
them together. Instead of building up the texture
layer by layer, he worked gradually through the
piece, attending to all parts simultaneously. The
key device used to weave this kind of texture is
called imitation. Composers were becoming more
interested and aware of harmony (how notes fit
against each other).
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