1.6- Music During the Italian Renaissance

Meet the Composers

Guillaume Dufay -1400-74

The most important composer in shaping the musical language of the Early Renaissance


Listen to  “Nuper rosarum flores” – G. Dufay

Dufay (background information)

  • Musical Celebrity — worked all over Europe [audio:Dufayingeneral.mp3]
  • The composer most associated with the Early Renaissance
  • Sacred works:   masses and motets
  • Secular works – chanson, ballatte, rondeau
  • Huge changes in the overall sound of music
    Dufay’s Contributions [audio:DufaysContributions.mp3]

Listen to L’Homme Arme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DBtiTVaJZ0

Listen to Ave Maria Stella: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-25R_SaDao

Josquin des Pres

  • Most important composer of the High Renaissance
  • Led the Sistine Chapel Choir
  • Well known: France and Austria, even Martin Luther knew him

Nune Dimittis – Notice how independent each voice must be? That’s polyphony

Listen to Des Pres Ave Maria….virgo serena
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUAgAF4Khmg [or download audio only]

  • Opens with imitating melodies singing Ave Maria
    • soprano, alto, tenor, bass
  • With the text “gratia plena’ (full of grace) a new melody is imitated
    • Soprano, alto, tenor, bass
  • This work presents a pristine example of imitative polyphony in this famous opening.
  • Just before the ending there is a silence which creates focus for the final ending.

Giovanni Pierluigi Da Palestrina

Agnus Dei – Pope Marcellus Mass – Palestrina
Secular Music

Secular music has been around as long as mother’s have sung their children to sleep.   However, with the expansion of music literacy and the greater availability of printed music, secular music became more sophisticated, rivaling the refinement of sacred music during the Renaissance.

Madrigals became popular later in the Renaissance. You will learn more in the Northern Renaissance Lesson. Here is an example of an Italian Madrigal.

(Yes, I know the video is dated, but the information is “jolly good’ and the singing is exquisite.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTF2z3-fOek

Characteristics of Italian Renaissance Music

Here are some of the terms associated with the music of the Italian Renaissance.   The videos give you a practical basis for understanding these terms.   However – you should be warned, that the music that is performed is not necessarily from the Italian Renaissance.

A capella — vocal work without accompaniment

Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZ2zYal_yZk

Motet — Follow the link for a definition https://incompetech.com/music/motet.html
Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tw5xa6myHcE

Chanson — Follow the link for a definition https://www.answers.com/topic/chanson

Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuP5sBPrK5A

Mass — Follow the link for a definition https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_(music)

Word Painting — Follow the link for a definition https://www.music.vt.edu/musicdictionary/textw/Wordpainting.html

Polyphony — A harmonic texture where one or more melody is being played or sung simultaneously.

Listen to Bach’s Fugue in G minor, a Baroque era composition. This is a pristine example of polyphony which starts out with a single melody and includes a graphic that shows how it weaves in more melodies until there are 5 melodies at time. Link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVadl4ocX0M

Monophonic — A single melody line. This is the opposite of polyphony. You can even have many people, and even instruments doing the same melody line at the same time and it is monophonic. Listen to the first minute and half of Agnus Dei from Verdi’s Requiem (A Romantic era composition)   for an example of monophonic harmonic texture. After the first minute and 50 seconds it goes into homophonic texture. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnZpxPZi_5s

Sacred music — Music created for religious purposes, frequently with text taken from religious writings.

Next: Theater During the Italian Renaissance

18 Responses to “1.6- Music During the Italian Renaissance”

  1. Britney Stevenson writes:

    The last video has been removed due to terms of use violation

  2. Rachel McCreedy writes:

    I absolutely loved Mozarts Fugue! I was so entranced. Wow he was a genius. A good representation of polyphony

  3. Michelle Felix writes:

    A capella has always been a favorite of mine!

  4. Nita D. writes:

    I always forget how much I enjoy Bach until I listen to his work again… Thank you for including his Fugue in G Minor!

  5. Reese writes:

    once you can escape the musical trends of today, it crazy how that motet starts sounding good!

  6. Sarah writes:

    That illustration of Bach’s Fugue in G Minor is incredible!

  7. jessica wert writes:

    Nuper Rosarun Flores is very calming and peaceful. The harmony is amazing.

  8. Rebecka writes:

    I found myself listening over and over again. I felt like I was back in high school choir again (many, many years ago). I remember our select show group going to Washington DC for a special performance we did, and we went into the Cathedral of St. Matthew and sang Ave maria and a few other songs just because my choir director wanted to give us the experience of hearing our group in the awesome acoustics there. It was so amazing and beautiful. The way those cathedrals were designed made the sound surround you as you sang, and you could hear everyone else too.

  9. Chaitanya Borade writes:

    So much to know about art. This is a great insight into the musical world.

  10. Rebecca Hunting writes:

    I just enjoyed listening to the music

  11. Gloria Tucker writes:

    So much beautiful music, the renaissance was definitely a time of great beauty.

  12. Mariah Scott writes:

    The music is so ethereal, so many wonderful shifts happening during that time.

  13. Sam writes:

    The Bach was just wonderful. Those videos really helped me to understand the terms. Thank you for putting the time into this, and for sharing with us.

  14. jzollman writes:

    The richness of these musical selections is truly astounding. Can you imagine hearing the harmonies and melodic structure of Dufay’s music for the first time…ever? Those that heard it must have thought they’d been transported to heaven. The inspirational element is overwhelming! Also the human element developed by Des Pres and Palestrina once again underscores the importance of the introduction of the human element in art and music during the renaissance.

  15. Amy M. writes:

    It looks like the first piece was disabled. If anyone’s having trouble finding it, here’s a link to the same piece, although it’s probably a different performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOkf_wxIcfQ

  16. ljkljaich writes:

    Thanks for mentioning that Amy – links come and go – more so on You Tube due to copyright infringements.

  17. 1.5- Visual Arts During the Italian Renaissance | ART/MUS/THR F200 writes:

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  18. morgan925igap@yahoo.com writes:

    I had a head ache from the music. I did like the A Cappella sounds better than motet