Baroque Music

Tim Carter

in Music

ISBN: 9780199757824
Published online June 2011 | | DOI:
Baroque Music

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“Baroque” is a style-period in music conventionally identified as the 17th century and the first half of the 18th, i.e., from Claudio Monteverdi (b. 1567–d. 1643) to J. S. Bach (b. 1685–d. 1750) and Handel (b. 1685–d. 1759). It is often divided into “early” (1600–1640), “middle” (1640–1690), and “high” (1690–1750) phases. These various chronological boundaries remain fuzzy, however, and also reflect the prejudices of German and Anglo-American scholarship that might not appeal to, say, French admirers of their musique classique from Jean-Baptiste Lully to Jean-Philippe Rameau, or Spanish devotees of the siglo de oro up to the death of Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1681). Given that many characteristics of early Baroque music can be traced to aesthetic attitudes and performance practices typical of the late Renaissance, it is common to take the beginnings of Baroque music back to 1580 or so. When the Baroque period ends is a much more problematic question, depending on where one situates the so-called Rococo and style galant (e.g., of Rameau or Georg Philipp Telemann), the Empfindsamer Stil (e.g., of C. P. E. Bach), or the pre-Classical style of, say, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi and Johann Adolf Hasse. Baroque music is often characterized by one or more of the following: harmonic (vertical) thinking, musical rhetoric and affective text expression, elaborate ornamentation, newly codified genres and forms, the emergence of functional tonality, and the rise of the virtuoso. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (in his Dictionnaire de musique, 1768), writing from the rather smug viewpoint of the French Enlightenment, claimed that “a baroque music is that in which the harmony is confused, charged with modulations and dissonances, the melody is harsh and little natural, the intonation difficult, and the movement constrained.” Modern scholars and performers would disagree, and the current entry, introducing the fundamental texts in the field and its subdivisions, seeks to make some sense of just what Baroque music might be. It does not include composer studies, which can be found separately in Oxford Bibliographies.

Article.  7476 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Applied Music ; Ethnomusicology ; Music Theory and Analysis ; Musicology and Music History ; Music Education and Pedagogy

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