Kate van Orden

in Music

ISBN: 9780199757824
Published online June 2011 | | DOI:

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In the scholarship of Western art music, the Renaissance is understood to comprise the period from approximately 1430 to 1600, with the beginning defined by the use of triadic harmonies on the continent (the “sweet style,” described by Martin Le Franc c. 1440 as the “contenance angloise”), and the end marked by the first performances of operas and the first publications of monody around 1600, after which time preferences for more soloistic genres and basso continuo practice displaced the hegemony of polyphonic composition for multiple independent voices. While these stylistic attributes do delineate a more or less coherent period of musical production, during which cantus firmus procedures, canonic writing, and imitative polyphony were explored with considerable intensity and—during the 16th century—vernacular genres of polyphonic song multiplied quite dramatically, it is nonetheless unclear how appropriate it is to label this period as a “Renaissance,” “rebirth,” or “rediscovery” of classical culture in the same way that the term is employed in other disciplines. The extent to which music, too, participated in the “Renaissance” has primarily been examined in conjunction with music theory, natural philosophy, and musical humanism. Most scholarship on this period, however, has traditionally been oriented toward source studies, both manuscript and print. Full-scale general overviews of individual genres, and even the biographies of individual composers, are surprisingly rare by comparison—to take but one dramatic example, the first English-language biography of Josquin des Prez appeared only in 2009, and it is but the second biography of the composer in any language, despite the centrality of his works to the canon. More common are contextual studies of music that focus on a specific court, city, or religious institution (the Papal Chapel, El Escorial, confraternities, and so forth); many studies have also considered the role of music in the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, and educational programs of the time.

Article.  20197 words. 

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

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