Utama How to Listen to and Understand Great Music

How to Listen to and Understand Great Music

Tahun: 2006
Edisi: 3rd
Penerbit: The Teaching Company
Bahasa: english
Halaman: 308
Series: The Great Courses
File: PDF, 15.86 MB
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How to Listen to
and Understand Great
Music, 3rd Edition
Course Guidebook
Professor Robert Greenberg
San Francisco Performances

Professor Robert Greenberg, the Music Historian-in-Residence
with San Francisco Performances, is the composer of
more than 45 works for a variety of instrumental and vocal
ensembles. A former instructor with the San Francisco
Conservatory of Music, Professor Greenberg is an authority
on a range of composers and classical music genres. His
masterful compositions have won three Nicola de Lorenzo
Composition prizes and a Koussevitzky commission from the
Library of Congress.

Cover Image: © Garry Hunter/Photographer’s Choice RF/Getty Images.
Course No. 700 © 2006 The Teaching Company.



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Music Appreciation

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Robert Greenberg, Ph.D.
San Francisco Performances


rofessor Robert Greenberg was born in
Brooklyn, New York, in 1954 and has lived
in the San Francisco Bay area since 1978. He
received a B.A. in music, magna cum laude, from
Princeton University in 1976 where his principal
teachers were Edward Cone, Daniel Werts, and
Carlton Gamer in composition; Claudio Spies and
Paul Lansky in analysis; and Jerry Kuderna in piano. In 1984, he received
a Ph.D. in music composition, with distinction, from the University of
California, Berkeley, where his principal teachers were Andrew Imbrie and
Olly Wilson in composition and Richard Felciano in analysis.
He has composed over 45 works for a wide variety of instrumental and vocal
ensembles. His works have been performed in New York, San Francisco,
Chicago, Los Angeles, England, Ireland, Greece, Italy, and the Netherlands,
where the Amsterdam Concertgebouw performed his Child’s Play for
String Quartet. He has received numerous honors, including three Nicola de
Lorenzo Composition Prizes and three Meet-the-Composer Grants. Recent
commissions have come from the Koussevitzky Foundation at the Library
of Congress, the Alexander String Quartet, the San Francisco Contemporary
Music Players, San Francisco Performances, the Strata Ensemble, and the
XTET ensemble.
Professor Greenberg is a board member and an artistic director of
COMPOSERS, INC., a composers’ collective/production organization
based in San Francisco. His music is published by Fallen Leaf Press and
CPP/Belwin and is recorded on the Innova label. He has performed, taught,
and lectured extensively across North America and Europe. He is currently
music-historian-in-residence with San Francisco Performances, where he
has lectured and performed since 1994, and resident composer and music
historian to National Public Radio’s “Weekend All Things Considered.”


He has served on the faculties of the University of California at Berkeley,
California State University at Hayward, and the San Francisco Conservatory
of Music, where he chaired the Department of Music, History and Literature
from 1989–2001 and served as the Director of the Adult Extension Division
from 1991–1996.
Professor Greenberg has lectured for some of the most prestigious musical
and arts organizations in the United States, including the San Francisco
Symphony (where, for 10 years, he was host and lecturer for the symphony’s
nationally acclaimed “Discovery Series”), the Lincoln Center for the
Performing Arts, the Van Cliburn Foundation, and the Chautauqua Institute.
He is a sought-after lecturer for businesses and business schools, speaking
at such diverse organizations as the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco
and the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, and has been
pro¿led in various major publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Inc.
magazine, and the London Times. Ŷ


Table of Contents

Professor Biography ............................................................................i
Course Scope .....................................................................................1
Music as a Mirror ................................................................................4
Sources—The Ancient World and the Early Church...........................8
The Middle Ages ...............................................................................13
Introduction to the Renaissance .......................................................18
The Renaissance Mass ....................................................................22
The Madrigal.....................................................................................25
An Introduction to the Baroque Era ..................................................28
Style Features of Baroque-era Music ...............................................31
National Styles—Italy and Germany.................................................35


Table of Contents
Fugue ...............................................................................................39
Baroque Opera, Part 1 .....................................................................44
Baroque Opera, Part 2 .....................................................................47
The Oratorio .....................................................................................53
The Lutheran Church Cantata ..........................................................62
Passacaglia ......................................................................................70
Ritornello Form and the Baroque Concerto ......................................74
The Enlightenment and an Introduction to the Classical Era ...........78
The Viennese Classical Style, Homophony, and Cadence ..............82
Classical-era Form—Theme and Variations .....................................87
Classical-era Form—Minuet and Trio: Baroque Antecedents...........91
Classical-era Form—Minuet and Trio Form......................................96


Table of Contents
Classical-era Form—Rondo Form .................................................101
Classical-era Form—Sonata Form, Part 1 .....................................109
Classical-era Form—Sonata Form, Part 2 ..................................... 112
Classical-era Form—Sonata Form, Part 3 ..................................... 118
The Symphony—Music for Every Person.......................................123
The Solo Concerto..........................................................................126
Classical-era Opera—The Rise of Opera Buffa .............................134
Classical-era Opera, Part 2—
Mozart and the Operatic Ensemble ........................................138
The French Revolution and an Introduction to Beethoven .............145
Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5 in C Minor, op. 67, Part 1 ................149
Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5 in C Minor, op. 67, Part 2 ................154
Introduction to Romanticism ...........................................................183


Table of Contents
Formal Challenges and Solutions in Early Romantic Music ...........186
The Program Symphony—
Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, Part 1 .................................191
The Program Symphony—
Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, Part 2 .................................194
19th-Century Italian Opera—Bel Canto Opera ...............................204
19th-Century Italian Opera—Giuseppe Verdi ..................................208
19th-Century German Opera—
Nationalism and Experimentation ...........................................213
19th-Century German Opera—Richard Wagner..............................222
The Concert Overture, Part 1 .........................................................229
The Concert Overture, Part 2 .........................................................232
Romantic-era Musical Nationalism .................................................239
Russian Nationalism .......................................................................242
An Introduction to Early 20th-Century Modernism ...........................252


Table of Contents
Early 20th-Century Modernism—Claude Debussy ..........................255
Early 20th-Century Modernism—Igor Stravinsky.............................260
Early 20th-Century Modernism—Arnold Schönberg........................264
Timeline ..........................................................................................269
Glossary .........................................................................................279
Biographical Notes .........................................................................286
Bibliography ....................................................................................295



How to Listen to and Understand Great Music,
3rd Edition


hroughout its history, Western music has been a mirror of the social,
political, and religious events and aesthetic ideals of its time. The
ancient Greeks held a humanistic view of music—they believed in
its power to change nature, to heal the sick, and to change the human heart.
The ancient Greek Doctrine of Ethos, based on the Pythagorean view of
music, claimed music to be a microcosm of the cosmos, ruled by the same
mathematical laws as the cosmos. The Greeks recognized the power of music
to heighten the expressive power of words and used music in their drama for
that reason.
With the decline of the municipal authority of the Roman Empire, the Roman
Catholic Church became a temporal and spiritual power, fostering the ideal of
music as a “servant” of religion. In this role, music was created according to
guidelines imposed by the Church. Out of this tradition emerged plainchant,
a monophonic genre of music that was cultivated virtually unchanged for
centuries until the development of composed polyphony in the High Middle
Ages, circa 1000–1400.
The 14th century was a time of tremendous change, marked in music by a
technique called isorhythm, of which Guillaume de Machaut was the supreme
master. A century later, during the Renaissance, the rebirth of ancient Greekinspired Humanism had a signi¿cant impact on music. Inspired by Classical
ideals, such composers as Josquin Desprez sought greater expressivity
through clearer vocal articulation in their music. The Renaissance was also
a time of experimentation with tuning systems, the developing “science” of
tonal harmony and notation. Although secularism was on the rise, it was the
Roman Catholic Mass that inspired the most signi¿cant compositions of the
period, including those of Giovanni da Palestrina, whose masses satis¿ed
the Church’s emphasis on clarity of vocal declamation. The late 16th century
saw the Renaissance Humanist preoccupation with the written word carried
to new heights in the cultivation of musical word painting, which found its


most extreme expression in the genre of the madrigal, mastered by such
composers as Carlo Gesualdo and Thomas Weelkes.
The relative restraint of Renaissance music yielded to the exuberance and
even greater expressivity of Baroque-era music (1600–1750). This age of
new discoveries and faith in science and the scienti¿c method led to a view
of the cosmos as a logical, watch-like, ordered mechanism, a worldview that
found its way into music with the codi¿cation and standardization of the
well-tempered tuning system, meter, and harmony. It was during the Baroque
Era that opera evolved, along with two other signi¿cant vocal genres—
oratorio and the Lutheran church cantata. The latter genre was a result of
the Protestant Reformation, which also helped to facilitate the development
of instrumental music. This, in turn, gave rise to important new musical
forms, including fugue, ground bass form, and ritornello form. Distinctive
national styles emerged in Italy and Germany, as exempli¿ed in the music of
Arcangelo Corelli, Antonio Vivaldi, George Frederick Handel, and Johann
Sebastian Bach.


The rise of the middle class in the 17th and 18th centuries led to the emergence
of public concerts, musical amateurism, and a new philosophy of naturalism
in music, which looked back to the purity of Classical aesthetic ideals for
inspiration. This so-called Classical Era in music saw the development of
the Viennese Classical style, with its seemingly perfect marriage of northern
and southern European musical traditions. Homophonic forms were created
or adapted from Baroque antecedents, including theme and variations form,
minuet and trio form, rondo form, and most importantly, sonata form.
The two most important orchestral genres of the Classical Era, the symphony
and the concerto, evolved from Baroque operatic practices and concepts.
The history of the symphony’s development owes a particular debt to Joseph
Haydn, while the arch-revolutionary Ludwig van Beethoven brought the
genre to its Classical zenith, even as his symphonies anticipated the trends of
the subsequent Romantic Era. The concerto reached equally lofty heights in
the hands of Wolfgang Mozart. Opera continued to Àourish in the Classical
Era, with the development of opera buffa. Again, Mozart’s contributions to
the genre remain unsurpassed.


The 19th century, known as the Romantic Era, saw a post-Beethoven
expressive revolution in which literary storytelling came to play a crucial
role in music, as epitomized by the work of Hector Berlioz. Opera Àourished
in this period, too: Italian bel canto opera owed much to Gioacchino Rossini,
while German Romantic opera was ushered in by Carl Maria von Weber.
Later in this period, Richard Wagner’s contributions to the genre would have
enormous signi¿cance and inÀuence, as would those of Giuseppe Verdi.
The 19th century also saw the development of program music and musical
nationalism. Both these elements can be seen in the work of such composers
as Franz Liszt, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and the Russian nationalists. The
increasingly extreme range of late Romantic expression is exempli¿ed in the
music of Wagner and Gustav Mahler.
At the end of the 19th century, the challenge of ¿nding new approaches to
melody, harmony, and rhythm occupied many of the best musical minds,
including that of Claude Debussy, one of the most original and inÀuential
composers in the history of Western music. Debussy gave voice to musical
Impressionism, with his unique blurring of traditional harmonic and rhythmic
contours and his unprecedented emphasis on timbre. Debussy’s innovations
made a deep impression on Igor Stravinsky, who experimented with rhythmic
asymmetry and polythematic textures. The early-20th-century quest to break
free of conventional systems of harmony and meter found its culmination in
the freely atonal music of Arnold Schönberg, who would change the course
and history of Western music.
Every musical composition is a product of its time and place, as well as its
composer’s conscious and unconscious mind. Each such work mirrors its
contemporary world in its own unique way. Ŷ


Music as a Mirror
Lecture 1

This opening lecture introduces themes, concepts, and terminology
that will be followed and used throughout the series, including concert
music, classical music, popular music, and Western music.


e will see how music is a “mirror” of historical change on various
levels. The course will focus on representative works in relation
to their historical contexts and will endeavor to build listening
skills and a musical vocabulary designed to increase musical knowledge and
appreciation. Using Ludwig van Beethoven as an example, “the composer”
is discussed, not as idiot savant or Godhead, but as a human being who
has chosen music as the conduit for the expression of his or her thoughts,
feelings, and worldview.

Lecture 1: Music as a Mirror

Why should we seek to understand concert music? An understanding of
music can free our imaginations, making us more intellectually Àexible
and better at problem solving. Music is a universal, nonverbal language
that provides access to social, cultural, and aesthetic traditions of different
times and places. Music allows us to transcend our own world and partake
in completely different realities. Musical experience opens our minds as very
few other things can.
We begin with some key de¿nitions and distinctions. This course examines
Western (European-based) music, with the understanding that many nonWestern cultures also have ancient and substantial musical traditions. Concert
music is music most likely to be heard in a concert hall or some such other
“reanimation facility.” Properly speaking, concert music is not synonymous
with Classical music; the latter refers either to the music of ancient Greece or
to Western music composed between approximately 1750 and 1827.
It is often dif¿cult to distinguish between concert music and popular
music. In its day, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in C Minor, op.
13, composed in 1799, was considered a progressive work intended for
connoisseurs. [Piano example: Beethoven, Piano Sonata in C Minor, op. 13

Western music can be seen as a mirror
of society. As society changes, so
does the stylistic content of the music.
[Musical selections: Thomas of Celano,
Dies irae (c. 1225); Mozart, Eine kleine
Nachtmusik, K. 525 (1787), movement
2; Arnold Schönberg, Pierrot Lunaire,
op. 21, no. 1 (1912).] Why has Western
musical style changed? The answer lies
in the intrusion of the composer’s ego,
beginning in the High Middle Ages, Ludwig van Beethoven.
when composers ¿rst began to actually
sign their work—to take credit for it.
Composers search constantly for new modes of expression. The rate of
stylistic change has increased as the rate of change in society has increased.
[Musical selections: Ave maris stella (plainchant hymn, c. 725); Thomas of
Celano, Dies irae (c. 1225); N. Rimsky-Korsakov, Russian Eastern Overture
(1888), opening; Igor Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring (1912), “Dance
of the Adolescents.”]
We will take a three-pronged approach to our study of music in this course.
We will examine the historical, social, political, and religious environments
that shaped the composers under study and their musical styles. We will
focus on certain representative works as examples of their times and as
objects of art unto themselves. We will develop listening skills and a musical

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, (LC-USZ62-29499).

(1799), movement 1, opening.] In its day, Mozart’s piano sonata of 1788 was
“popular” in almost every sense. [Piano example: Mozart, Piano Sonata in C
Major, K. 545 (1788), movement 1, opening.] Today, this music is considered
to be concert music. Often, concert music is considered “pure” music created
out of some altruistic artistic urge, whereas popular music is only written
for money. This is a red herring, as all composers want to be paid for their
music! Suf¿ce for now to say that concert
works will generally be longer and have
a higher information content—melodic,
harmonic, rhythmic, and formal detail—
than so-called “popular” works.

vocabulary that will allow us to isolate and identify certain types of musical
phenomena. [Musical selections: Mozart, Symphony in G Minor, K. 550
(1788), movement 4—an example of disjunct melody; Beethoven, Symphony
no. 9, op. 125 (1824), movement 4, “Ode to Joy”—an example of conjunct
melody.] There is only one big leap in the Beethoven work, and it constitutes
the climactic moment of the theme. Beethoven’s theme is so relatively
conjunct that the intensity of that leap is magni¿ed tenfold. [Piano example:
“Ode to Joy” with interval of a sixth (played twice).]

Lecture 1: Music as a Mirror

A few apologies are in order. Unfortunately, this course is as much an
exercise in exclusion as it is in inclusion. This series will provide only a
historic and aesthetic of Western music.
Finally, let us consider the composer as a person rather than as an icon. A
little depedestalization is good for us! Let’s cut through some of the mystery
and hyperbole that surrounds the act of music composition. Composers are
people who describe what they see, hear, understand, feel, and perceive in
musical terms. Taking Beethoven as our example, we hear in the heavy,
emotional music of his Symphony no. 5 the Beethoven we associate with the
revolutionary and heroic spirit of the age of Napoleon. [Musical selection:
Beethoven, Symphony no. 5 in C Minor, op. 67 (1808), movement 1.] But
not all of Beethoven’s music is heavy, serious, and turgid. For example,
Beethoven was capable of writing some of his most joyful music when
he was in his darkest moods. What do you
suppose this music is about? [Musical selection:
Beethoven, Symphony no. 2 in D Major, op. 36
Why should we
(1802), movement 4 (repeated).]
seek to understand
concert music?
It is a strange theme for a symphonic movement.
[Musical selection: Beethoven, Symphony
no. 2 in D Major, op. 36, movement 4, opening
(repeated); [Piano example: Beethoven, Symphony no. 2 in D Major, op. 36,
movement 4, opening.] What is it about? When Beethoven got depressed, his
GI tract went haywire. This music is about his gastrointestinal problems! It
is crude, but the music is a comic portrayal of hiccups, burps, and rumbles.
[Piano example: Beethoven, Symphony no. 2 in D Major, op. 36, movement
4, opening; musical selection: Beethoven, Symphony no. 2 in D Major,

movement 4, opening.] You will never hear Beethoven’s Symphony no. 2
the same way again! Like any aspect of life, concert music can be serious,
tragic, joyful, stupid, irreverent, and funny. It is a living, breathing, utterly
relevant body of work that can teach us not just about its own time and place
but much about ours, as well. Ŷ


Sources—The Ancient World and the Early Church
Lecture 2

The ancient world is a 4,000-year period of extraordinary cultural
richness and variety. From this long ancient era, only 40 or so fragments
of music have survived.

Lecture 2: Sources—The Ancient World and the Early Church


ur search for the earliest sources of Western music will carry us back
to ancient Greece and Rome. The ancient world—for our purposes—
runs from around 3500 B.C.E. through the fall of Roman civilization
in approximately 500 C.E. From this long and rich ancient tradition, only
40 or so fragments of music have survived. Music in the ancient world was
essentially an oral tradition; what was written down was recorded on media
such as paper that falls apart over time. When viewed in proper historical
perspective, the music that we will concentrate on in this course—that of
the past 300 years—is really quite recent. We must avoid the temptation to
think that music develops linearly and progressively and that today’s music
is somehow “better” than yesterday’s. Instead, we should think of music
history as cyclical rather than linear.
The musical culture of ancient Greece is as relevant to us today as it was to
the ancient Greeks. The essentially Humanistic Greek ideal of music is our
ideal as well in the present day. What we today refer to as the ancient Greek
world was geographically and culturally diverse.
Some important dates in the history of ancient Greece:

The traditional date of the Trojan War was circa 1100 B.C.E.


The Greek city-states appeared between about 800 and 461 B.C.E.


The ¿rst Olympic games were held circa 776 B.C.E.


Pythagoras died in 497 B.C.E.


Plato’s Republic was written around 390 B.C.E.



Aristotle’s Politics was written around 350 B.C.E.


Aristoxenus discovered harmonic elements circa 320 B.C.E.


Alexander the Great conquered and Hellenized the known world in
331–323 B.C.E.

Greek culture was essentially Humanistic. Greek art, philosophy, and ideals
ultimately put humankind at the center of all things. The Greeks viewed music
as capable of healing the sick, working miracles in nature, and changing
human hearts. The Greeks viewed music as basic to the pursuit of truth and
beauty. Thus, music was omnipresent in the Greek world. At the heart of
the Greek view of music was the Doctrine of Ethos, based on Pythagoras’s
view of music. Music was seen as a
microcosm of the cosmos, a system of
The void created by the
pitch and rhythm that was ruled by the
same mathematical laws that governed
decline of Roman municipal
the whole of the universe. Having said
authority during the 5th and
that, music is by no means reducible
6th centuries was ¿lled, to
to mathematics or vice versa.
a degree, by the Roman
Catholic Church. The
The Greeks recognized the power
of music to heighten the expressive
Church became the last
meaning of words. Large parts of many
bastion against barbarism
Greek dramas were apparently sung.
and the preserver of
Euripides wrote the tragedy Orestes
culture and learning in an
around 408 B.C.E. It is possible that
he also composed the music that his
increasingly hostile world.
Greek chorus sang during the course
of the play. A stasimon is an ode, or
commentary, sung by the chorus as it stood in its place in the orchestra, the
semicircular space between the edge of the stage and the spectators’ benches.
In the stasimon chorus that we will hear, the chorus represents the women
of Argos imploring the gods to have mercy on Orestes, who has murdered
his mother in revenge for her in¿delity and for her murder of Agamemnon,
Orestes’s father. [Musical selection: Euripides, Orestes (408 B.C.E.),
Stasimon Chorus.]

Stasimon Chorus from Orestes, c. 408 C.E.

Lecture 2: Sources—The Ancient World and the Early Church

You wild goddesses who dart across the skies
seeking vengeance for murder, we beg you to free
Agamemnon’s son from his raging fury. ...
We grieve for this boy. Happiness is brief among mortals.
Sorrow and anguish sweep down on it
like a swift gust of wind on a sailboat,
and it sinks under the tossing seas.
The papyrus bearing this music is incomplete. Any performance we hear
today will be a reconstruction. The instruments used in the recording we hear
are a kithara (a large, seven-string lyre), cymbals, and an aulos (an oboe-like,
double-reed instrument). We are not certain that such instruments would
have been used, although ancient pottery shows that instruments like these
might very well have played along with the singers in a setting like this. The
music is chant-like and monophonic: One melody only—no harmony and no
accompaniment per se; the voices and instruments are singing and playing
the same pitches at the same time. [Musical selection: Euripides, Orestes,
Stasimon Chorus.] This ancient Greek musical/dramatic ideal became
inestimably important when it was rediscovered during the Renaissance
(2,000 years later) and eventually led to the invention of opera around
1600. The inventors of opera were convinced that they were recreating—in
“modern” guise—the theatrical practice of the ancient Greeks.
The ancient Romans adopted Greek music (and art) as their own. The Epitaph
of Seikilos is a skolion, or drinking song, of great beauty and very human in
its expressive content. It survived because it was carved into a 1st-centuryC.E. tombstone. [Musical selection: Seikilos, Epitaph (1st century C.E.).]
Drinking songs became a convention in 18th- and 19th-century Italian opera.
[Musical selections: Giuseppe Verdi, La traviata (1852), act 1, “Libiamo
ne’lieti calici”; Seikilos, Epitaph.]


Epitaph of Seikilos
As long as you live, be lighthearted.
Let nothing trouble you.
Life is only too short, and time takes its toll.

The following are some important dates in the history of ancient Rome:

Julius Caesar became dictator in 46 B.C.E. and was assassinated in
44 B.C.E.


Virgil wrote The Aeneid in the period 29–19 B.C.E.


Jesus Christ was born in 4 B.C.E. and died circa. 33 C.E.


Nero became emperor in 54 C.E.


The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 C.E.


In 313 C.E., Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, granting Christianity
equal rights along with other religions in the Roman Empire.


The conventional date for the fall of the Roman Empire in the West is
476 C.E.

The void created by the decline of Roman municipal authority during the
5th and 6th centuries was ¿lled, to a degree, by the Roman Catholic Church.
The church became the last bastion against barbarism and the preserver of
culture and learning in an increasingly hostile world. By about 600, the Age
of Theocracy had begun; it would last until about 1400.


Lecture 2: Sources—The Ancient World and the Early Church

To differentiate itself from pagan and Jewish ritual, the early church
developed three guidelines for the use of music in Christian worship:
(1) Music must remind the listener of divine and perfect beauty. (2) Music
is a servant of religion. Because non-vocal music cannot teach Christian
thoughts, instrumental music must be rejected. (3) Pagan inÀuences—such
as large choruses, “majorish” melodies, and dancing—must be rejected. Ŷ


The Middle Ages
Lecture 3

With the gradual return of civilization to Europe during the High
Middle Ages also came the development of composed polyphony,
called organum, including a type of organum known as Àorid organum.
The violent disruptions of the 14th century—the so-called Babylonian
Captivity, the Great Schism, the Black Death, and the Hundred
Years’ War—led to a rise of secularism, the cultural impact of which
could be seen in a new vernacular literature and the beginning of the
Humanism movement.


he Middle Ages is customarily divided into two large periods: the
Dark Ages, 600 C.E.–1000 C.E., and the High Middle Ages, l000
–1400 C.E. The Dark Ages (especially 600–800) was a grim time in
European history. The education and technology of Greco-Roman civilization
were essentially lost in the West, and the average person lived under
extremely primitive conditions. The institution of serfdom tied the peasantry
to the land from birth to death.
Europe was periodically ravaged
by invaders, and communication To facilitate the composition,
and trade between Europe and the
promulgation, and performance
rest of the world almost came to
of such composed polyphony,
a halt.
a universally understood
The Roman Catholic Church was system of musical notation
all that stood against barbarity was developed, re¿ned, and
during the Dark Ages, serving
as a patron of art and education, eventually standardized.
civility, and literacy. The role of
music in the medieval church was
to create a mood of peace conducive to prayer and to embellish the liturgy.
Church music comprised plainchant, often referred to as Gregorian chant.
Plainchant is unadorned and monophonic (a single, unaccompanied melody).
[Musical selection: Ave maris stella (Hail, Star of the Ocean) (c. 725 C.E.).]
Gregorian chant derived its name from its association with the codi¿cation

of the liturgy during the reign of Pope Gregory I (c. 540–604). The term is a
misnomer, because much of this music was created long after Gregory lived.
Ave maris stella, for example, was created sometime during the 8th century.
Ave maris stella is a hymn in praise of the Virgin Mary. As a plainchant
hymn, it has a straightforward chant tune, repeated numerous times over
numerous stanzas. Such hymns were sung regularly during the of¿ces (the
daily Liturgy of the Hours) but not during the Mass.
Why are these hymns so relaxing and conducive to meditation and spiritual
quietude? They have a monophonic texture: one melody only. They are
conjunct—smooth and singable. There is no regular beat. A strong, steady
beat was, as far as the Roman Catholic Church was concerned, reminiscent
of dance music and therefore not considered appropriate to church liturgy.
The rhythm in plainchant is strictly a function of the words being sung.
[Musical selection: Ave maris stella.]
Ave maris stella (c. 700)

Lecture 3: The Middle Ages

Ave maris stella
Dei mater alma
Atque semper virgo
Felix caeli porta.

Hail, star of the ocean
Gentle mother of God
And also always virgin
Joyous path of the sky.

Plainchant was created over hundreds of years by thousands of musicians,
for the most part anonymously. It represents the single greatest body of
music created by Western culture. It is also the only music that has survived
in written form from the Dark Ages.
The High Middle Ages saw the gradual return of civilization and civility to
Western Europe. Europe experienced dramatic social, technological, and
artistic changes. Technological developments included horse-drawn plows,
the process of crop rotation, and wind and water power for irrigation and
milling. These agricultural innovations allowed more food to be grown,
and as a result, populations grew. Cities were reborn and universities were
founded; Romanesque and Gothic architecture developed. Secular courts

saw tremendous growth. Greek and Arabic texts were translated into the
vernacular, and a new vernacular literature emerged (e.g., Boccaccio,
Chaucer, and Dante). The Crusades (1090–c. 1290) were a foreign
policy disaster.
The years between 900 and 1000 saw the development of composed
polyphony. Polyphony is a musical texture in which two or more principal
melodies are heard simultaneously. To facilitate the composition,
promulgation, and performance of such composed polyphony, a universally
understood system of musical notation was developed, re¿ned, and eventually
standardized. Composition replaced improvisation as the essential mode of
musical creation. Rules of compositional procedure naturally followed, along
with the rise of specialists who could compose and notate polyphony.
Organum was the earliest composed and notated polyphony. Organum
presents a plainchant in one voice, while another voice decorates and
embellishes the plainchant. The earliest and simplest organum dates from
circa 900 C.E. Organum reached its artistic peak from about 1150–1300
among a school of composers centered at Notre Dame in Paris and known
as the Ars Antiqua. The organum of this period is called Àorid organum:
The lower voice sings the plainchant in sustained (Latin and Italian: tenore)
notes. [Piano example: Ave maris stella.] Above this voice, a faster, Àorid
upper line (duplum) embellishes and decorates the plainchant.
Ars Antiqua composer Leonin (c. 1135–1201) seems to have been the ¿rst
post-ancient-world composer to have signed his name to his music. [Musical
selection: Leonin, Alleluia pascha nostrum (c. 1200).] Leonin’s piece is full
of melisma: a single syllable of text sung over multiple changing pitches.
This is what makes it Àorid, or Àowery. The piece also features an organ—
the Roman Catholic Church’s proscription against instruments in church had,
by the High Middle Ages, been considerably toned down. The plainchant
anchors and controls the music.
The 14th century was a time of tremendous change and diversity. The absolute
authority of the Roman Catholic Church and, with it, the Age of Theocracy
came to an end. The papal court abandoned Rome and was resident in
Avignon between 1305 and 1378—a period known as the Babylonian

Captivity of the Church. With the Great Schism (1378–1417), there were at
¿rst two, followed by three simultaneous claimants to the papacy. The Great
Schism, along with rising concern about corrupt clergy, as well as the ravages
of the Black Death (1347–1350) and the Hundred Years’ War (1338–1453),
together generated a crisis of faith. Powerful secular rulers increasingly
challenged the Roman Catholic Church’s political prerogatives.
One response to the crisis of faith was the rise of secular ideas, literature,
and art. New vernacular literature was written, much of it satirizing matters
of church and faith. Humanists promoted the rebirth of classical Latin and
Greek culture.
The most representative compositional technique of the new music of the
14th century—the Ars Nova—was isorhythm. The music of the Ars Nova
(which designates both the musical style and its composers) achieved a level
of structural complexity not witnessed again until the 20th century. Through
isorhythm, 14th-century composers manipulated rhythm (talea) and melodic
intervals (“color”) in isolation from each other.

Lecture 3: The Middle Ages

Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300–1377) was the most representative composer
of the Ars Nova. His clever Quant en moy, which brilliantly represents
its time, consists of two different love poems sung simultaneously, one
in the soprano voice and the other in the tenor voice. The instrumental
accompaniment consists of a plainchant that holds the whole thing together.
Hockets—rhythmic gaps in each voice that are ¿lled in by the other voice—
allow for articulation of the poetic structure. [Musical selection: Machaut,
Quant en moy (c. 1350).]
The secular, intellectually complex polyphonic music of Machaut and his
contemporaries mirrors a fragmented and anguished age in which composers
of such music sought to create order in an increasingly disordered world. It
is with the Arts Nova that Western music truly diverges from the medieval
church’s ceremonial and ritual view of music back toward being a more
Humanistic art. Ŷ



Introduction to the Renaissance
Lecture 4

In the 15th and 16th centuries, the rediscovery of ancient Greek and
Roman culture—Humanism—had a tremendous impact on European
cultural, intellectual, and political history. The ancient Greek ideal of
music as a power that can change nature and move souls profoundly
inÀuenced composers of the Renaissance.

Lecture 4: Introduction to the Renaissance

e begin with a brief review of the 14th century, which—in terms
of music—marked the close of the Middle Ages and the dawn of
the Renaissance. This era saw an end to the absolute authority
of the medieval church. Perhaps the most representative compositional
technique of the 14th century was isorhythm—awesomely complex and
highly intellectualized music. We listen again to the music of Guillaume de
Machaut, the great composer and poet of the 14th century. [Musical selection:
Machaut, Quant en moy.]
European culture in the 15th and 16th centuries was dominated by the
rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman culture. To a great degree, the
Renaissance was a response to the breakdown of the absolute authority of the
medieval church. The church’s doctrine of absolute authority gave way to a
period of intense exploration and questioning. At the core of that questioning
was the concept of humankind’s place in the world.
The Renaissance was shaped by several social and intellectual movements
and events.

Classicism—the study of the language, literature, philosophy, art, and
architecture of ancient Greece and Rome—held special fascination for
Renaissance scholars.


The Renaissance marked a rededication to human values; Humanism
was the dominant intellectual movement, emphasizing human life and
accomplishments rather than religious doctrine and the afterlife.



Global exploration began to be vigorously pursued.


The Protestant Reformation profoundly shook the power of the Roman
Catholic Church.


The rise of secular power meant the rise of secular education.


The invention of the printing press made possible the broader
dissemination of knowledge.


Visual art showed new clarity and perspective.

Several aesthetic innovations were adopted in music during the Renaissance.
Renaissance composers sought to recapture the expressive ideal of the
ancient Greeks, which held that music should move the emotions and
soul. To do this, Renaissance music put a new emphasis on clear vocal
declamation, the better to articulate the words, something Renaissance
composers called musica reservata. Music should also reÀect the meaning
and feeling of the spoken or written word, for example, through tone or word
painting. Thus, music must not be overly melismatic (or “notey”). To remind
ourselves of what a melismatic piece sounds like, we will listen again to
Leonin’s Alleluia. [Musical selection: Leonin, Alleluia pascha nostrum.]
Isorhythmic technique was not compatible with the Renaissance requirement
for clear vocal articulation. [Musical selection: Machaut, Quant en moy.]
The nature of the vocal articulation here
is a function of the isorhythmic formula,
not a consequence of any desire to
The Renaissance saw
declaim the words using their own
much experimentation
natural rhythms.
with new tunings,
harmonic structures, and
Technical innovations were also
notational techniques.
adopted. The Renaissance saw much
experimentation with new tunings,
harmonic structures, and notational
techniques. Renaissance composers adopted the Pythagorean/Greek view
of music as a sonic manifestation of the “order” of the cosmos. Pythagoras
sought to understand why certain sounds were consonant and others dissonant.

Lecture 4: Introduction to the Renaissance

[Piano examples: consonance and dissonance.] Pythagoras discovered
what we now call the harmonic series. [Piano examples: octave, perfect
¿fth, and so on.] He discovered that the more complex the ratio between
two vibrating bodies, the more complex (dissonant) the relationship between
the sounds they produced. Renaissance theoreticians took Pythagoras’s work
to the next level. They played the ¿rst six partials of the harmonic series
simultaneously. [Piano examples: six partials starting on C; C major triad.]
They came up with the structure that we call a major triad: three different
pitches that blend together. [Piano example: C major triad.] The system
of tonal harmony began to evolve during the Renaissance: a systematic
approach to consonance and dissonance, of rest and tension, based on the
supremacy of the triad. Its impact on Western music cannot be overstated.
This system provided the means for a single melody to be underlain by a
changing harmonic accompaniment (homophony).
The most important composer of the mid-Renaissance was Josquin Desprez
(c. 1440–1521). Josquin was born in northern France and split his career
between France and Italy. His music epitomizes the High Renaissance
style: melodically Àuid and not particularly rhythmic music, characterized
by smooth, carefully conjunct, and controlled polyphony with occasional
use of homophony. His Petite Camusette (Little Snubnose) is written for
six voices in imitative polyphony, each of which overlaps with the other
voices. [Musical selection: Josquin, Petite Camusette (c. 1500).] This song
is composed in smooth imitative polyphony. Declamation of individual
parts is clear, although the dense polyphony obscures the individual voices.
[Musical selection: Josquin, Petite Camusette.]
The work marks a strong contrast with Machaut’s Quant en moy, with its
spiky melodies, isorhythms, and indeterminate harmonic language. The
next version of Josquin’s piece that we will hear is quite different from
the ¿rst. It is jazzier and faster and sung a cappella (without instrumental
accompaniment). [Musical selection: Josquin, Petite Camusette.] Much
of Josquin’s music was published, and he became the ¿rst composer to
become genuinely famous in his lifetime. Because of the printing press, his
contemporaries were able to study and learn from the example of his music
with a speed that would have been unthinkable just a few years before. Ŷ



The Renaissance Mass
Lecture 5

The musical setting of the High Mass of the Roman Catholic Church
became the most important compositional genre of the Renaissance.


he musical setting of the Mass, the principal daily service of the
Roman Catholic Church, was the most important compositional genre
of the Renaissance. The High Mass (Missa solemnis) comprises more
than 20 different sections, with two main divisions. The ¿rst part consists
of a section called the Introductory, followed by the Liturgy of the Word.
The second part consists entirely of the Liturgy of the Eucharist (“giving
of thanks”).

Lecture 5: The Renaissance Mass

There were also two categories of activity govern the 20-plus sections of
the High Mass. The Proper consists of those portions of the Mass particular
to speci¿c days or celebrations in the liturgical calendar, and the Ordinary
consists of those portions of the Mass
said every day and comprises the Kyrie,
Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and
Three different types of
Ite missa est, in that order.
mass were created by
Renaissance composers.
Renaissance composers set ¿ve sections
of the Ordinary to music. Earlier
composers had also set the Ordinary to
music, the most famous being Machaut’s The Mass of Notre Dame, which is
also the most famous piece of music composed in the 14th century. Medieval
composers set six parts of the Ordinary of the High Mass to music, but by
1450, a composed mass had become a ¿ve-section composition, based on the
Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei of the Ordinary, without the
Ite missa est. A single melody, usually a plainchant, will typically underlie
all ¿ve parts of a Renaissance musical mass to provide both musical and
spiritual cohesion.


In a paraphrase mass, the underlying plainchant melody has been
modernized: Rhythms have been altered; pitches have been added to give
it a more “modern” sensibility; and certain pitches have been changed
to make the plainchant sound tonal rather than modal. The master of the
paraphrase mass was Josquin Desprez. We will look at his paraphrase mass
based on the plainchant Ave maris stella. [Musical selection: Ave maris
stella, opening. Piano examples: Ave maris stella (original version) and
Ave maris stella (paraphrased version of Josquin Desprez).] In Josquin’s
mass, the declamation of the plainchant is somewhat obscured by the rich
polyphony. [Musical selection:
Josquin, Ave maris stella Mass
(c. 1500), Agnus Dei, part 3.] The
melliÀuous nature of Renaissance
polyphony has much to do with
the evolving system of triad-based
tonal harmony. There is a marked
lack of tension-creating dissonance.
[Musical selection: Josquin, Ave
maris stella Mass, Agnus Dei,
part 3.]
In an imitation mass, a melody other
than a plainchant is used to underlie
the mass, including melodies from
popular songs. These masses became
common during the early 16th
century, indicating the increasing
tolerance of the Catholic Church.

Martin Luther issuing the 95 Theses,
the act that triggered the Protestant
Reformation, which had a profound
effect on European religious
practices, including music.


Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, (LC-USZ62-75127).

Three different types of mass were created by Renaissance composers. In a
cantus ¿rmus mass, the underlying plainchant is heard in its original medieval
form and usually in the tenor voice. This is the earliest and most archaic
form of Renaissance mass. Plainchants are modal; they lack the harmonic
tendency of the major/minor scale system. The Dies irae, for example, is in
the Dorian mode. [Piano examples: Dies irae, opening; comparison between
modal cadence and harmonized cadence.]

Lecture 5: The Renaissance Mass

The Protestant Reformation had a profound inÀuence on the social, political,
and artistic history of Europe. In 1517, the Catholic priest Martin Luther
(1483–1546) launched a protest against aspects of the Catholic Church. The
protest rapidly became a full-blown anti-Roman Catholic revolution. The
Catholic hierarchy responded with the Counter-Reformation, a key event of
which was the Council of Trent (1545–1563). The council ostensibly purged
the Catholic Church of “laxities, secularization, and abuses.” The council
objected strongly to certain aspects of Renaissance church music. These
included imitation masses based on secular melodies, use of complicated
polyphony that obscured the words of worship, the excessive use of “noisy
instruments” in church, the bad pronunciation of church-trained singers, and
“the careless and generally irreverent attitude of the singers [in church].”
Giovanni da Palestrina (c. 1525–1594) has come to be considered the “savior”
of Roman Catholic Church music. According to legend, Palestrina composed
his six-part Pope Marcellus Mass to demonstrate that polyphony could be
made compatible with the musical doctrines of the Counter-Reformation.
His music became the model for the next generations of church composers
and is still held as a model of polyphonic clarity. His style epitomized the
sober, conservative spirit of the Counter-Reformation. [Musical selection:
Palestrina, Pope Marcellus Mass (1555), Agnus Dei, part 1.] Palestrina’s
six vocal parts are much clearer than Josquin’s four vocal parts because
Palestrina allows each new syllable to be heard by itself. His vocal lines are
compact and almost entirely conjunct. Gentle diatonic lines and almost no
chromaticism give the music serenity and transparency. [Musical selection:
Palestrina, Pope Marcellus Mass, Agnus Dei.] Ŷ
Angus Dei
Angus Dei,
Qui tollis peccata mundi,
Miserere nobis,


Lamb of God
Lam of God,
Who taketh away the sins of the earth,
Have mercy on us.

The Madrigal
Lecture 6

The madrigal was the most important and most experimental musical
genre of secular music in the late Renaissance Era. As unaccompanied
vocal works, based on “elevated” poetry, madrigals took the Renaissance
infatuation with “the word” to the next level.


he madrigal was the most important genre of Italian secular music
during the 16th century; consequently, Italy became the center of
European music. A madrigal is a secular, unaccompanied work for
four to six voices. Madrigals were based on various poems of fairly high
artistic level, and many used free rhyme schemes. They freely mixed
polyphony and homophony, which makes them very special in the music
of the late Renaissance. As a result of
the artistically repressive environment of
the Counter-Reformation, during which
experimentation was forbidden in church
theorists and composers
music, the madrigal became the most
believed that there was
experimental musical genre of its time.
a science behind word
painting, that there were
The madrigal’s “poet laureate” was the
great 14th-century Italian poet Francesco
certain musical formulas
Petrarch, who inspired the Petrarchan
that, properly deployed,
movement. Pietro Bembo (1470–1547),
could illustrate particular
statesman and poet, brought about a
literary descriptions.
revival of Petrarch. Petrarch’s poetry
became the ideal poetry for early
madrigalists. The Flemish-born composer
Cipriano de Rore (1516–1565) was a premier madrigalist. He was one of
the oltremontani (that is, non-Italian composers residing and working in
Italy). His music projects the overall mood of the sonnet and illustrates and
intensi¿es the meaning of the words. [Piano example: descending line to
illustrate death.] The most interesting word painting is done with harmony,
not melody. [Piano example: A–D6 –G–Bb–A–D6 –G–Bb.] These harmonies
would have been perceived as very jarring to a mid-16th- century listener.

Lecture 6: The Madrigal

[Musical selection: De Rore, Datemi pace (1557).] Madrigals are the
ultimate manifestation of the Renaissance’s fascination with intensifying the
literary meaning of the words.

Late-Renaissance theorists and composers believed that there was a science
behind word painting, that there were certain musical formulas that, properly
deployed, could illustrate particular literary descriptions. Italian madrigalists
showed increased expressivity via word painting, with composers often
going far beyond the melodic and harmonic conventions of their time to
make expressive statements that had otherwise not been made to that point.
One of these madrigalists (an amateur) was Carlo Gesualdo, prince of Venosa
(1561–1613). His Io parto (published in 1611) displays a “word painting–rich
environment” and a strikingly bizarre harmonic palette. [Musical selection:
Gesualdo, Io parto (1611).

The English madrigalist tradition was inspired by collections of Italian
madrigals published in London. A collection of 23 madrigals, entitled The
Triumph of Oriana and published in 1601, gives a comprehensive overview of
the English-language madrigal. Oriana was the mythological name of Queen
Elizabeth I, to whom the collection is dedicated. One of these madrigals,
composed by Thomas Weelkes (1575–1623), exempli¿es the madrigalist’s
mission to create a musical equivalent to the written word and, in so doing,
to intensify the meaning of the written word. [Musical selection: Thomas
Weelkes, As Vesta Was from Latmos Hill Descending (1601).] Such bold and
experimental works bring us to the very edge of opera. Ŷ
As Vesta Was from Latmos Hill Descending (1601)
—Thomas Weelkes
As Vesta was from Latmos hill descending
She spied a maiden Queen the same ascending,
Attended on by all the shepherds’ swain;
To whom Diana’s darlings came running down amain
First two by two, then three by three, together
Leaving their Goddess all alone, hasted thither;
And mingling with the shepherds of her train,
With mirthful tunes her presence did entertain.
Then sang the shepherds, and nymphs of Diana:
Long live fair Oriana!

An Introduction to the Baroque Era
Lecture 7

In a series of comparisons between Renaissance and Baroque music, this
lecture differentiates between the measured elegance of Renaissance
music and the often extravagant emotionalism of Baroque music.
Special attention is paid to the scienti¿c and investigative spirit of the
Baroque and its impact on the arts of the era.


Lecture 7: An Introduction to the Baroque Era

he Baroque Era in music is conventionally dated between 1600 (the
composition of the ¿rst surviving opera) and 1750 (the death of Johann
Sebastian Bach). Baroque is the Portuguese word for “irregular
pearl.” It was originally used as a colloquial reference to art and music
of “corrupt taste.” Today, it is used to denote the Àamboyant, decorative,
and often highly detailed art and music of this period. Although there is no
single Baroque musical style, the notey, brilliant, and typically polyphonic
instrumental music of Johann Sebastian Bach has come to epitomize the
Baroque Era. [Musical selection: J. S. Bach, Brandenburg Concerto no. 2 in
F Major, BWV 1047 (1721), movement 3, opening.]
Baroque-Era intellectual and social trends were reÀected in Baroque
music. The Baroque Era saw rational thought and logic as transcendent.
It was an era of great scienti¿c observation and codi¿cation; the period of
the great scientists Galileo, Kepler, Leeuwenhoek, Harvey, and Newton.
The era was characterized by an effort to explain, order, and dominate
the physical world through rational thought, rather than through simply
supernatural explanations.
Baroque music and art reÀect the era’s belief that logical systems (the
invisible hand of God) rationally controlled the complexity of the world.
Baroque extravagance contrasts sharply with Renaissance restraint. We
can hear this by comparing Palestrina’s Agnus Dei with Bach’s “Hosanna”
from the Sanctus of his Mass in B Minor. [Musical selection: Palestrina,
Pope Marcellus Mass, Agnus Dei.] The Palestrina work is very measured,
rhythmically, melodically, and expressively. Melodically, it is almost entirely


A comparison of Baroque and Renaissance secular vocal music also
illustrates this contrast between emotional expressivity and restraint.
[Musical selection: Weelkes, As Vesta Was from Latmos Hill Descending.]
The actual emotional content here is minimal, as the essential expressive
message is about illustrating the literary meaning of the words. [Musical
selection: Purcell, Dido and Aeneas (1689), “Dido’s Lament.”] The repeated,
descending bass line—a musical icon for death—is reinforced by the funeralmarch rhythm of the aria. The melodic material is in a “dark” minor key.
This music expresses the feelings beneath the
words. The difference between madrigal and
opera is not just the difference between word
painting and emotional expression. More
profoundly, it is about the difference between
group expression and individual expression.
The development of opera represents,
musically, the rise of the individual, and
nothing in the last 400-plus years of Western
music has been more important or had more
far-reaching rami¿cations than the invention
of opera.
Baroque art was magni¿cent and extravagant.
Baroque art was often a celebration of the
absolute monarch who commissioned the King Louis XIV of France
a great Baroque-Era
artist. Louis XIV of France (r. 1643–1715) was
patron of the arts.
was the quintessential example of a ruler
who celebrated himself and his reign with
magni¿cent, awe-inspiring art. The royal palace at Versailles provides an
architectural example of Baroque extravagance and control. Its symmetry
keeps the extravagance in place.


Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, (LC-USZC4-2032).

without chromaticism and dissonance and is sung without accompaniment (a
cappella). [Musical selection: J. S. Bach, Mass in B Minor (1745), Sanctus,
Hosanna.] This music is rhythmically overwhelming, with long, ornate
melodies. The harmony is ¿lled with chromaticism and dissonance, and the
Hosanna is scored for voices and instruments.

Lecture 7: An Introduction to the Baroque Era

The French overture—the invention of Louis XIV’s court composer, JeanBaptiste Lully—provides a musical example of this same duality. It consists
of two sections; the ¿rst is characterized by sweeping scales, a slow and
plodding tempo, and long/short (dotted) rhythms. The second is characterized
by imitative polyphony and a faster tempo. The following piece by George
Frederick Handel is an example of a French overture. [Musical selection:
Handel, Water Music (1717), overture.] Ŷ


Style Features of Baroque-era Music
Lecture 8

The explosion of instrumental technology and design during the
Baroque Era gave rise to instrumental music for its own sake, which
in turn resulted in a systematized and codi¿ed tuning system based on
12 different pitches. Thus, both functional harmony and the notation of
meter were standardized during the Baroque Era.


e begin by reviewing the social trends and events that shaped
Baroque style and music. The Baroque Era was fascinated with
the substance and power of individual human emotions, as
manifested in the Baroque infatuation with theatre and in the invention of
opera around 1600. There is an emotional and expressive exuberance in
Baroque-Era art that sets it apart from the more restrained music and art of
the Renaissance. The scienti¿c climate of the times led to a new emphasis
on logic and control, echoed in the harmonic and formal structures of
Baroque-Era music. The increasing power of secular authorities gave rise to
the absolute monarch, who celebrated himself through extravagant art and
music. The development of instrumental music illustrates that the syntactical
elements of Baroque-Era music had become substantial enough that they
could, by themselves, create a viable musical statement without the need for
text or voices.
Let’s review some terminology on the “sound” aspects of music. Musical
time is some aspect of rhythm. Most sounds in Western music are discrete
sounds, that is, sounds we can sing. [Piano example: pitch A.] A pitch has
two properties: (1) Fundamental frequency: the rate of vibration of the full
length of a sound-producing body. (2) Timbre: the quality or tone color of the
particular instrument making the sound. One more term, note, applies to a
notated pitch with duration.
A melody is any succession of notes. [Piano examples: Beethoven, “Ode to
Joy” from Symphony no. 9; a fast series of unrelated notes.] A motive (or
motif) is a brief succession of notes from which a melody grows through
the processes of repetition, sequence, and transformation. [Piano examples:

motive, sequenced transformations of motive; Duke Ellington, Satin Doll.]
Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5 opens with a striking motive that sequences
downward and is followed by a whole series of repetitions, sequences, and
slight transformations. [Piano examples: opening motive and sequence.] The
opening of this symphony shows how that single motive spins out everything
we hear. [Musical selection: Beethoven, Symphony no. 5 in C minor, op. 67
(1808), movement 1.]

Lecture 8: Style Features of Baroque-era Music

A tune is a generally singable, memorable melody with a clear sense of
beginning, middle, and end. The theme is the principal musical idea in a
given section of music. [Musical selection: Tchaikovsky, Violin Concerto in
D Major, op. 35 (1878), movement 1, theme 1.] As opposed to Beethoven’s
music, the motives in Tchaikovsky’s music are subsumed beneath the melodic
surface. [Piano examples: 11-note motive, which is then slightly altered; a
new motive.] Tchaikovsky’s motives are longer than the four-note motive
of Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5, and in Tchaikovsky’s theme, there is more
than one motive, whereas Beethoven built everything from a single motive.
A conjunct melody features pitches that are relatively close together.
[Musical selection: Beethoven, Symphony no. 9 in D Minor, op. 125,
movement 4, “Ode to Joy.”] Whereas a disjunct melody features pitches that
tend to jump around. [Musical selection: Mozart, Symphony in G Minor, K.
550 (1788), movement 4.]
Texture refers to the number of melodies present and the relationship
between or among those melodies in a given section of music. Monophonic
texture, or monophony, consists of only a single unaccompanied melody line.
[Musical selection: Ave maris stella.]; polyphonic texture, or polyphony,
(also known as contrapuntal texture, or counterpoint) consists of two or
more simultaneous melody lines of equal importance. Imitative polyphony is
characterized by overlapping more or less the same melody line in multiple
parts. The imitation can be strict (e.g., a canon or round) or, as is mostly the
case, non-strict. Josquin’s Ave maris stella Mass features both strict and nonstrict material in the same passage! [Musical selection: Josquin Desprez,
Ave maris stella Mass, Agnus Dei, part 3.] Non-imitative polyphony is
characterized by two or more different melodies of equal importance
heard simultaneously. [Musical selection: Machaut, Quant en moy.] In a

homophonic texture, or homophony, one melodic line predominates, and
all other melodic material is heard as secondary or accompanimental to the
main melody. [Piano example: Beethoven, Piano Sonata in C Minor, op. 13
(1799), movement 2.]
We resume our study of the development of purely instrumental music as
a function of the development of the syntactical elements of the musical
language during the Baroque Era. Perhaps the most extraordinary musical
development of the Baroque Era was the growth of purely instrumental music.
[Musical selection: Palestrina, Agnus Dei from Pope Marcellus Mass.] The
words drive the melodic and rhythmic contour in this piece. Palestrina’s work
can be contrasted with the instrumental music of Bach, in which the melodic
and rhythmic contour is determined purely by Bach’s imagination. [Musical
selection: J. S. Bach, Brandenburg Concerto no. 5 in D Major, BWV 1050,
movement 1, opening.] Here, the musical
elements have become suf¿ciently
complex and interesting in themselves to
The well-tempered
comprise a viable musical experience by
tuning system became
themselves. Instrumental music, the most
standard by the very
abstract of the arts, truly develops during
early 18th century.
the Baroque Era.
During the Baroque, every aspect of the
musical language was affected by the era’s fascination with codi¿cation,
invention, logic, and scienti¿c method. Instrumental technology and design
exploded during the Baroque Era. Perhaps most importantly, the violin
family of instruments was perfected in the region of Cremona, Italy. The
well-tempered tuning system became standard by the very early 18th century.
This was a tuning system that divided the octave into 12 different pitches,
allowing for a major and minor scale to be built on any one of those 12
pitches, resulting in a total of 24 different scales or keys. This matrix of major
and minor keys remained the basic pitch palette for Western music until the
20th century. Meter and metric notation were standardized during the Baroque
Era as bar lines became standard after 1650. Functional harmony was also
standardized and codi¿ed. Any chord could be understood as having one
of three functions: tonic, dominant, and subdominant (or rest, tension, and
preparation for tension).

Lecture 8: Style Features of Baroque-era Music

The basso continuo or thorough bass evolved. This was a group of
instruments within a larger ensemble that ¿lled a role similar to the rhythm
section in a jazz combo. The bass line and clock-steady functional harmonic
progressions played by the basso continuo served as a means of controlling
the otherwise extravagant and notey melodic surfaces of Baroque music. Ŷ


National Styles—Italy and Germany
Lecture 9

Differences between Italian and German music ¿rst truly manifested
themselves in the Baroque Era. Musical nationalism involves much
more than the incorporation of ethnic or ethnic-sounding elements. It
evolves from a composer’s native language and his or her social and
cultural background.


e begin by comparing the expressive nature of two early 19thcentury works. [Musical selection: Rossini, The Barber of Seville,
“Una voce poco fa” (1816).] Rossini’s The Barber of Seville
is a type of operatic aria called a cavatina. It is engaging and entertaining.
Its expressive message is clear; it is a product of its words and the manner
in which the music reinforces both the words and the emotions behind the
words. Now let’s look at Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5. It is symphonic
instrumental music; it’s powerful and brutal. Its meaning is metaphorical and
abstract. [Musical selection: Beethoven, Symphony no. 5 (1808), movement 1.]
Rossini’s aria reÀects the early 19th-century Italian view of music as being,
essentially, an entertainment, while Beethoven’s symphonic music reÀects
the German/Austrian view of music as something that was also profound
and capable of the deepest metaphorical expression. The compositional
“divide” between Italian music and German music is a subject that will recur
throughout this course. Nationalism in music is ordinarily de¿ned as the
use of folk or ethnic music in a concert work. There is, however, a more
subtle and far-reaching sort of musical nationalism, one that is the result of a
composer’s native language and national, or ethnic, mind-set and culture.
The sort of melodies a composer writes are based, to a large degree, on the
language being set to music (in the case of vocal music) and the language
the composer grew up speaking. The liturgical music of the medieval church
was set in Latin, a language characterized by smooth, long vowels and few
sharp consonants or explosive articulations. It is naturally given to sustained
syllables, that is, melismas. [Musical selection: Leonin, Alleluia pascha
nostrum (c. 1200).] The insistence of the medieval church that only vocal

Lecture 9: National Styles—Italy and Germany

music (rather than instrumental music) was appropriate for worship ensured
the development of vocal music above all other kinds, especially in Italy.
Secular and vernacular music emerged during the High Middle Ages and
developed rapidly during the increasingly expression-conscious Renaissance.
By 1500, Italy had emerged as the musical capital of Europe. As the closest
language to Latin, the Italian language most easily adapted the melismatic
and elongated character of Latin vocal music.
It was during the Renaissance, particularly
One major outcome
as a result of the cultivation of the madrigal,
of Lutheranism
that the Italian language replaced Latin as
the “essential” language of Renaissance
was the adoption of
vocal music.
religious songs—
The Italian Baroque style was ¿rmly in place
called chorales
by 1650. It was an outgrowth of Latin vocalism
and the equally vocal character of the Italian
or hymns.
language. It was an essentially homophonic
tradition, epitomized by opera, the dominant
musical art form of the era. It favored melodic and structural directness
relative to the ornamental complexity of the French style and the polyphonic
and harmonic complexity of the Baroque German style. Italian Baroque opera
gave birth to the two most important orchestral genres of the next 400 years:
the symphony (which developed from the overtures played before Italian
operas) and the concerto (which developed, initially, as an instrumental
adaptation of operatic practices).
The Protestant Reformation brought additional changes to Western music.
The Reformation was an anti-Italian, anti-Roman Catholic revolution
centered in northern Europe, particularly in what today is Germany. Martin
Luther (1483–1546) initiated the Reformation in 1517, when he challenged
the Roman Catholic Church’s tenets regarding penance and faith and
the practice of indulgences. The Reformation and the Catholic CounterReformation generated a series of wars (1546–1648) that left much of
Germany in ruin.


This attitude had a signi¿cant impact on Johann Sebastian Bach
the development of northern European dedicated most of his music—
music. Because of the nature of the German sacred and secular—to God.
language, melodies set to German words
are very different from melodies set to Latin words. The German language
has many guttural consonants; it is not given to sustained syllables. Rather,
German-language melodies tend to be syllabic: one pitch per syllable.
The following choral music by Bach illustrates syllabic treatment. The
sharp, sometimes guttural articulations of the German language are reÀected
in the clearly articulated rhythms. The sharply articulated, compact German
language creates a sharply articulated, compact tune when German is set
to music. This is the essential nature of German-language vocal music.
[Musical selection: J. S. Bach, Cantata no. 140, Wachet Auf (1731),
part 7, verse 3.]


Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, (LC-USZ62-9033).

A new religious dogma emerged based on Luther’s reforms. It profoundly
affected music in Protestant Europe for centuries to come. One major
outcome of Lutheranism was the adoption of German-language religious
songs—called chorales or hymns—which became the backbone of music in
Lutheran communities across Europe. Like
the ancient Greeks, especially Pythagoras
and Plato, Luther attributed to music the
semimagical power to convey ideas, steer
the will, and fortify faith. According to
Luther, music was not the work of man
but a glorious gift of God with the power
to resist evil. Because of this belief, Luther
saw the composition and performance of
both secular and religious music as a godly
act. Thus, the Lutheran Church embraced
instrumental music as capable of inspiring
the same sort of religious devotion as
vocal music.

Lecture 9: National Styles—Italy and Germany

Lutheran church hymns became the core of north German culture. Two
different musical traditions developed side-by-side during the Baroque Era,
one Catholic and the other Protestant. A Lutheran German-speaking composer
perceived melody syllabically, not just because he spoke German, but
because he also sang German in church and was surrounded by a municipal
and religious culture that celebrated German-language church hymns and
melodies on every occasion. In Lutheran Europe, complex polyphonic and
instrumental music will be cultivated on a par with vocal music. In Lutheran
Europe, the creation of both secular and sacred music came to be viewed as a
spiritual act, and no one believed this more than Johann Sebastian Bach, who
dedicated almost all of his music—sacred and secular—to God. Bach was
a product of his time and place. His native German language and Lutheran
faith shaped his worldview and the sound of his music. Ŷ


Lecture 10

Fugue, arguably the single most representative musical procedure of
the Baroque Era, ... is de¿ned as a usually monothematic, polyphonic
work in which a theme—or, properly, a subject—is examined, broken
down, reassembled, and so on in as many different ways as possible.


ugue is the single most representative compositional procedure to
emerge from the Baroque Era. Fugue is a systematic exploitation of
a single theme in an imitative polyphonic “environment.” [Musical
selection: J. S. Bach, Fugue in C Minor from The Well-Tempered Clavier,
book 1 (c. 1722).] Note the perfect marriage of harpsichord and fugue. The
harpsichord’s clarity of attack precludes favoring one voice over another so
that each voice is clearly articulated. Of the three kinds of texture with which
this course is concerned—monophony, polyphony, and homophony—fugue
is about imitative polyphony. Fugue epitomizes the Baroque genius for
melodic extravagance and systematic organization and control.
The following are aesthetic and constructive aspects of a fugue. A fugue is
typically a monothematic work. The fugue “theme” is properly called the
subject. A fugue subject is a very special sort of melody, constructed to be
“deconstructed”: dissected, manipulated, and reintegrated. North German
composers produced the most expressively and polyphonically intense and
technically accomplished fugues.
A fugue consists of three essential parts, beginning with the exposition.
In the exposition, the subject is introduced successively in each of its
multiple voices. Once all the voices have entered, we should perceive an
equal balance among them. Once a voice has entered and sung its version
of the fugue subject, it will continue with a complementary melody called
a countersubject, a melody generated from the fugue subject. [Piano
examples: J. S. Bach, Fugue in C Minor from The Well-Tempered Clavier,
book 1, subject entries at different pitches; subject and answer.] The subject
is not imitated strictly, as in a round. To retain equality among the voices,
the order in which the voices enter must ensure that each newly entered

voice is, at the moment it enters, either the highest or the lowest voice.
[Musical selection: J. S. Bach, Fugue in C Minor from The Well-Tempered
Clavier, book 1.] Following the exposition, a fugue will consist of a number
of episodes that transit to various restatements of the fugue subject. These
episodes are perceived as transitional because they consist of motives drawn
from the subject and countersubject and because they modulate.
Before we consider harmony and this issue of modulation, we must discuss
Baroque-era tuning systems. The Baroque genius for experimentation,
systemization, and codi¿cation focused on tuning systems in order to create
a relatively standard system of maximum harmonic Àexibility.
The Greek music theorist Pythagoras investigated the relationships between
intervals. Pythagoras sought to quantify why certain sounds seemed to blend
and were thus considered “consonant” versus why other sounds did not seem
to blend and were thus considered “dissonant.” Pythagoras discovered that
the simpler the ratio between two vibrating bodies, the more consonant were
the sounds they produced. [Piano examples: middle C and C1, illustrating
the 2:1 ratio of vibrating bodies of the octave (eight white notes apart on
a keyboard).] The octave is perceived as the “limit” and can be divided
into a certain number of pitches that duplicate themselves at octaves above
and below.

Lecture 10: Fugue

For thousands of years in the West, the octave was divided into seven
different pitches, each eighth pitch being a duplication of the ¿rst. Today in
the West, we divide the octave into 12 different pitches, called the chromatic
scale. Other divisions are possible. For example, some cultures divide the
octave into 5 different pitches, called the pentatonic scale.
Pythagoras next investigated a 3:2 ratio, producing the interval of a perfect
¿fth. [Piano examples: C–G.] If we move up or down by perfect ¿fths, we
generate the so-called Pythagorean collection. [Piano examples: F–C–G–
D–A–E–B.] If we contain these ¿fths within one octave, we get the white
notes on a keyboard. If we move up or down by a continuous string of perfect
¿fths, the 13th pitch brings us back (almost) to the 1st pitch. [Piano example:
circle of ¿fths, F–F.] However, there is a slight difference between the ¿rst
and last pitches, called a Pythagorean comma.

The tuning system that accommodates the 7-pitch Pythagorean scale is
called just intonation. Changes in musical expression and style in the High
Middle Ages and Renaissance demanded that more pitches be added to the
system, which ultimately became a 12-pitch system. To solve the problem
of the Pythagorean comma, Renaissance theorists attempted to “temper” or
shrink some of the ¿fths, but not all of them. This meant that when all 12
pitches were contained within a single octave, some of the intervals were
wildly out of tune.
This Renaissance system of tempering some of the pitches—called meantone tuning—was abandoned in favor of equal-tempered tuning, in which
all the ¿fths are equally tempered by the same tiny amount and the octave
could then be divided into 12 equal and equally in-tune divisions. Equal
temperament was ¿rst described by Giovanni Lanfranco in 1533, but it did
not become universal until about 1850! Until then, well temperament or welltempered tuning was used, which was any one of the close approximations
of equal temperament left to individual taste. Bach’s preferred tuning was
well tempered but certainly not equal tempered.
Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier consisted of two books, each comprising 24
preludes and fugues: 12 preludes and fugues in all 12 major keys and another
12 in all 12 minor keys. [Piano examples: J. S. Bach, Fugue in C Minor from
The Well-Tempered Clavier, book 1, subject and motives.] The fugue subject
implies two separate melodies: a repeated motive and a descending lower
line. During the fugue’s exposition, the order of the voice entries is alto,
soprano, bass. Each voice enters in turn, producing a telescopic effect. Once
the alto and soprano have sung the subject, they perform a little duet until the
bass enters with the third and ¿nal statement of the subject. Once the bass
has sung the subject, the exposition is over. [Musical selection: J. S. Bach,
Fugue in C Minor from The Well-Tempered Clavier, book 1, exposition.]
Following the exposition, the fugue continues with a series of episodes and
¿ve restatements of the fugue subject, of which the ¿rst two restatements are
in new keys—Eb major and G minor—providing a sense of movement. The
function of the episodes is to transport us from one key to the next. To bring
the fugue to its conclusion, Bach uses a pedal: a single pitch sustained against
otherwise changing melodic material. [Piano example: pedal in the bass.]

This simple, transparent fugue moves through a continuous, seamless curve
of polyphonic sound. [Musical selection: J. S. Bach, Fugue in C Minor from
The Well-Tempered Clavier, book 1.]

Lecture 10: Fugue

The fugue from Handel’s Concerto Grosso, op. 6, no. 7 (1739), is wonderful
and frankly humorous. [Piano example: fugue subject.] This subject


consists almost entirely of a single note played faster and faster. Its avian
quality accounts for the fugue’s nickname: the Chicken Coop fugue. The
vocal entries are alto, soprano, tenor, and bass. [Musical selection: Handel,
Concerto Grosso, op. 6, no. 7, exposition.] This fugue subject, with its
squawking repeated notes and jerky rhythms, is impossible to miss. This is
decidedly a fugue with humor. We hear the entire fugue. [Musical selection:
Handel, Concerto Grosso, op. 6, no. 7.] Ŷ


Baroque Opera, Part 1
Lecture 11

Whether we like it or not, opera is the ultimate musical art form. It
combines everything, and offers thrills that are still illegal in certain
parts of Massachusetts. Please do not be afraid. Do not be intimidated.
Do not be turned off. Opera is cool!


Lecture 11: Baroque Opera, Part 1

y adding musical inÀection to words, one interprets and magni¿es
the meaning of those words. The opera Aïda, by the 19th-century
Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, is a classic love-triangle story:
An Ethiopian slave, Aïda, falls in love with Radames, an Egyptian general
with whom the Egyptian princess Amneris is also in love. In the end, Aïda
¿nds herself entombed with Radames, who has been condemned to death
by suffocation as a result of the machinations of the jealous Amneris. It
is Verdi’s music, not the mediocre text, that makes the tomb scene come
alive. [Musical Example: Verdi, Aïda (1871), “O terra, addìo.”] The
music transforms a simple goodbye into a sublime and profound farewell to
mortality as it clearly anticipates a higher, more beautiful reality.
We begin by de¿ning opera and identifying its forerunners. Opera is a stage
spectacle that combines scenery, action, literary drama, and continuous (or
almost continuous) music into a whole greater than its parts. Spiritually,
opera’s direct forerunner was ancient Greek drama. Although textbooks
often designate medieval liturgical drama as another forerunner of opera,
those were Latin-based religious plays
sung to plainchant-like music and were an
Spiritually, opera’s
extension of a plainchant-dominated liturgy,
rather than being true harbingers of opera.
direct forerunner was
ancient Greek drama.

Opera has its roots in late-Renaissance music.
The Renaissance expressive ideal was based
on the ancient Greek expressive ideal. Composers of madrigals expressed
the literary meaning of the text via word painting. The Renaissance saw a
huge increase in secular stage drama. Intermezzi (or intermedi) were sung
commentaries inserted between the acts of stage plays in late-Renaissance

Italy. By the 1580s, these intermezzi had become plays within plays. One of
the most famous sets of intermezzi was written not for a play but as part of
the wedding ceremony of Grand Duke Ferdinand de Medici of Tuscany and
Christine of Lorraine in 1589. Each part of the ceremony was followed by
an individual intermezzo. The ¿rst of these, written by Emilio de Cavalieri,
is a homophonic, accompanied work for solo soprano. [Musical selection:
Cavalieri, Dalle più alte sfere (1589).] The use of word painting and virtuoso
technique for the solo singer gives this music an immediacy, intimacy, and
emotional directness beyond most polyphonic madrigals. The solo singer
can shape expressive nuance in a way far beyond that of a vocal ensemble.
As intermezzi became longer and more involved, an awareness emerged that
a different sort of singing was required to distinguish narrative or dialogue
from the expression of emotions and feelings.
The Florentine Camerata was a typical Renaissance intellectual “club.” In
Renaissance Italy, groups of intellectuals gathered in clubs called ridotti
(sing.: ridotto) to discuss and research topics of common interest. The
members of the Florentine Camerata were scholars, poets, musicians,
composers, and amateurs who met regularly for some 30 years. The members
were interested in ancient Greek drama and music, as well as the music of
their day.
They were inÀuenced in their aesthetic views by the Florentine scholar
Girolamo Mei, who researched ancient Greek music and the role of music in
ancient Greek theater. Based on Mei’s work, the members of the Florentine
Camerata concluded that ancient Greek tragedy had been sung because that
would have been the only way that the ancient Greeks could possibly have
derived the powerful emotional experience that they claimed to have derived
from their drama. Furthermore, the Camerata believed that the power of
ancient Greek music could be attributed to the fact that it consisted of a
single melody that, in the words of Girolamo Mei, “could affect the listener’s
feelings, since it exploited the natural expressiveness of the rises and falls of
pitch and the register of the voice and of changing rhythms and tempos.”
The Camerata decided that word painting and vocal polyphony (as in
madrigals) were “childish and complicated” and, therefore, unsuited to true
emotional expression in music. The Camerata developed three corollaries of

musical expressivity: (1) The text must be clearly understood; (2) the words
must be sung with correct and natural declamation; and (3) vocal melody
must not depict mere graphic details, as in word painting, but must interpret
the feelings of the character singing.
Composer members of the Camerata included Emilio de Cavalieri (c. 1550–
1602), Giulio Caccini (c. 1546–1618), and Jacopo Peri (1561–1633). Jacopo
Peri composed the ¿rst fully sung stage work to have survived. His librettist
was the poet Ottavio Rinuccini.

Lecture 11: Baroque Opera, Part I

Euridice premiered in Florence on October 6, 1600. It is a fully sung stage
work in which three elements are alternated: (1) A small chorus sings
madrigal-like commentaries in the style of a Greek chorus. (2) Peri uses
simple, rhymed songs as lyric interludes to the action, to end scenes, and
for transitions between scenes. (3) Peri revolutionized Western music with
what he called the stile rappresentativo. This “speech-song” is what we now
call recitative, and it became the soul of the new Florentine style. Recitative
allows large amounts of text—as in dialogue and action sequences—to be
articulated clearly and still be sung. It follows the natural rhythms, accents,
and inÀections of the spoken language.
The story of Orpheus and Euridice has been a favorite of opera composers.
Orpheus is the embodiment of the Greek ideal of music: the golden-tongued
one who could change the face of nature, the hearts of animals, and the souls
of mortals and gods with his music. Orpheus is the personi¿cation of what
early opera sought to be and what opera composers have always sought to
do: change our perception of the world through the combination of words
and music. Ŷ


Baroque Opera, Part 2
Lecture 12

Early opera was based on recitative, which moves the dramatic action
forward rather than allowing the singer to reÀect on the action. The
operatic aria evolved in the 1660s and soon became the focal point of
opera, to the eventual debasement of recitative.


acopo Peri’s opera Euridice reÀects the belief of the Florentine Camerata
in the value of a new type of music based on solo singing. Camerata
members believed that their new stile rappresentativo (recitative) was
capable of expressing the emotions behind the words and could achieve for
the music of their day what the ancient Greeks claimed to have achieved
with theirs. We will listen to the dramatic moment when Orfeo responds to
the news that his beloved Euridice has been bitten by a snake and has died.
We should keep in mind that there is little or no reÀection in “Orfeo’s
Response.” Music of reÀection—the aria—is still some 50 years in the
future. Peri’s music—his stile rappresentativo—is about pushing the action
forward. Despite the fact that this is innovative music, it will sound stiff to
today’s audiences. Yet it is easier for us to empathize with Orfeo and his
tragic loss than with the characters in a madrigal. [Musical selection: Peri,
Euridice, “Orfeo’s Response” (1600).] Though we might ¿nd it stilted, Peri’s
contemporaries would have been very moved by this music.
Seventy-¿ve years after this opera, a scene such as “Orfeo’s Response”
would be written not as a forward-moving recitative but rather as an aria.
In an aria, as in theatrical soliloquy, real time stops. The librettist provides
words that pause and reÀect, and the composer creates music that interprets
and deepens the emotions behind those words. Early opera is about recitative;
these works were “dramas with music.”
Claudio Monteverdi (l567–1643) was one of the great opera composers of
the Baroque Era. He was in the employ of the duke of Mantua between 1590
and 1613, during which time he composed his ¿rst opera, Orfeo (1607). He
was choirmaster at St. Mark’s in Venice between 1613 and 1643.

Monteverdi was as adept at writing Renaissance-style madrigals as he was at
writing the “new style” opera. He made a distinction in his music between
writing in the “old style” and in the “new style,” what he called, respectively,
prima prattica and seconda prattica (“¿rst practice” and “second practice”).
Among his ¿rst-practice works are 200 madrigals, and among his secondpractice pieces are 19 stage works, of which only 6 have survived. The
surviving stage works include the best operas written during the ¿rst half of
the 17th century: Orfeo of 1607 and The Coronation of Poppea of 1642.
Musicologist Donald Grout wrote of Monteverdi’s Orfeo:

Lecture 12: Baroque Opera, Part 2

The music of Orfeo was greeted by contemporaries as [another]
example of the Florentine style, and indeed, the general plan of
the opera justi¿ed this view. Nevertheless, the differences are
fundamental. Monteverdi was a musician of genius. Soundly trained
in technique, concerned very much with musical and dramatic truth
and very little with antiquarian theories, he combined the madrigal
style of the late 16th century with the orchestral and scenic apparatus
of the old intermezzi and a new conception of the possibilities of solo
singing. Orfeo represents the ¿rst attempt to apply the full resources
of the art of music to opera, unhampered by any limitations.
Monteverdi’s Orfeo is a spectacular synthesis of almost every expressive
device and musical genre available to Monteverdi at the time. Most
importantly, it features the most melodically interesting and dramatically
effective recitative ever written. [Piano examples: recitative excerpts.]
Monteverdi also calls for the most massive instrumental ensemble to be
found in opera to that time: more than 40 different instruments, as opposed to
the 4 instruments that Peri called for in his Euridice. In the following excerpt,
we hear Monteverdi’s version of the scene in which Orpheus learns of
Euridice’s death. In contrast to the rather stiff version of this scene composed
by Peri, Monteverdi’s version of Orpheus’s response is singularly moving,
even though it is all composed in recitative. [Musical selection: Monteverdi,
Orfeo, “Messenger’s Song” (“In un ¿orito prato”), “Shepherd’s Response”
(“Ahi, caso acerbo!”), and “Orfeo’s Response” (“Tu se morta.”).]


Aria emerged as an element in Baroque operatic dramaturgy around 1660. An
operatic aria is not a song; it is a lengthy, substantial, and often complex piece
of vocal music in which the essential character and dramatic information are
transmitted via the music itself, unlike recitative, in which the words carry
the expressive message. The same Baroque advances in harmony, rhythm,
motivic manipulation, and melodic construction that led to the development
of purely instrumental music provided the means for the invention of the
operatic aria, as well.
By 1660 or so, both essential components of operatic dramaturgy were in
place: the recitative, reserved for action and dialogue; and the aria, used for
reÀection, character development, and the expression of feeling. During an
aria, time stops and reÀection begins, while the music carries the essential
expressive message. As aria became the focal point of Baroque opera, the
magni¿cent sort of recitative that Monteverdi cultivated was lost, and more
often than not, recitative was reduced to ¿ller.
After 1660, recitative was usually performed secco (“dry”): It was
accompanied only by the basso continuo—a harpsichord or harpsichord and
‘cello. Occasionally, recitative was accompanied by the whole orchestra—
recitativo accompanato, recitativo obbligato, or recitativo strumento. In
Baroque opera, only aristocratic characters were favored with orchestrally
accompanied recitative.
We return to the opera Dido and Aeneas by the British composer Henry
Purcell (1659–1695). Note the difference between Dido’s secco recitative
and her orchestrally accompanied aria. Over the span of the brief recitative,
Dido’s voice falls the distance of seven pitches. This deathly fall nicely
anticipates the descending bass line and morbid character of the aria to
follow. The aria’s ground-bass line is evocative of death and is repeated 11
times. [Musical selection: Purcell, Dido and Aeneas (1689), Recitative and
“Dido’s Lament.”] It is the music, not the words, that is at the heart and soul
of an aria. In opera, the composer, not the librettist, is the dramatist.


Lecture 12: Baroque Opera, Part II

Opera became increasingly a “popular” entertainment during the 17th
century. Early operas were courtly entertainment. Everything changed when
the ¿rst public opera house opened in Venice in 1637. By 1650, there were
seven full-time opera houses running in Venice, putting on more than 50
new productions a year. Like most pro¿table public entertainments, ¿nancial
success was achieved at the cost of dramatic and musical quality. The history
of opera sees a constant swing between high artistic ideals and pro¿teering.
We will trace this history as we move through the course. Ŷ

Dido and Aeneas, act 3, scene 2 (1689)
–Henry Purcell
Thy hand, Belinda; darkness shades me,
On thy bosom let me rest;
More I would, but Death invades me;
Death is now a welcome guest.


When I am laid, am laid in earth, may my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in thy breast.
When I am laid, am laid in earth, may my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in thy breast.
Remember me! Remember me!
But ah! forget my fate.
Remember me, but ah! forget my fate!



Lecture 12: Baroque Opera, Part 2

The Oratorio
Lecture 13

The two most important new genres to evolve in Baroque sacred music
were the oratorio and Lutheran church cantata.


andel’s Messiah is the only Baroque composition that has been
performed continuously since its premiere. The Hallelujah Chorus
from Messiah is the most famous moment from the most famous
piece of music written during the Baroque Era. [Musical selection: Handel,
Messiah (1742), Hallelujah Chorus.] Baroque-era sacred music included the
important new genre of oratorio, while the most important genre of Lutheran
Baroque sacred music was the church cantata.
Baroque Catholic sacred music, particularly in Italy, was a mix of old and new
styles. By the mid-1600s, the provisos of the Counter-Reformation regarding
music were considered ancient history and
were being treated, particularly in Italy, rather
Oratorio was the
Àexibly. Increasingly, many masses used the
resources of opera, including basso continuo,
most important new
solo singing, and multiple choirs with soloists
musical genre to
and orchestras featuring instrumental soloists.
evolve in Italy during
the Baroque Era.
The Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) devastated
Germany and established Protestantism in
much of what is today northern and central
Germany. During the postwar years of 1650–1680, the most important new
genre of Baroque-era Lutheran Church music to emerge was the Lutheran
Church cantata.
Baroque sacred music genres rely heavily on chorus. The most important of
these genres are:

Oratorio: essentially an opera on a religious subject. It did not evolve as
an integral part of any church service and was written for both Catholic
and Protestant audiences.


Cantata: a dramatic work that, like oratorio, uses the resources of
opera and is performed as a concert work without acting or staging.
Cantatas are shorter than oratorios and can be secular as well as sacred.
Unlike oratorios, Lutheran Church cantatas were part of the Sunday
worship service.


Mass: masses continued to be composed during the Baroque Era.
Composers of Catholic masses set the traditional ¿ve sections of the
Ordinary to music, while composers of Lutheran masses set only the
Kyrie and the Gloria to music.


Magni¿cat: a Latin-language cantata based on the Canticle of the Virgin
(Luke 1:46–55).


Passion: an oratorio based on one of the Gospel accounts of the events
of Christ’s cruci¿xion. Such works were created for Holy Week services
for both Protestant and Catholic congregations.


Motet: a cantata featuring an unaccompanied (a cappella) chorus.

Lecture 13: The Oratorio

The use of a chorus in all these works distinguishes them from Baroque
opera, which by the late 17th century had done away almost entirely with
the chorus.
The difference between the Renaissance mass and the Baroque oratorio is
that between ritual and restraint in the former and expressive exuberance in
the latter. Oratorios evolved from “sacred dialogues.” These were Roman
productions of the Renaissance and early Baroque Era that combined
narrative, dialogue, and exhortation. Oratorio was so named because its
original performance venue was an oratory: a small chapel within a larger
church or a small house of prayer.
By the late 17th century, oratorios had absorbed certain elements of Baroque
opera: recitative, aria, and the orchestra. Their non-operatic features included
the narrator (testo) and chorus. The chorus disappeared from the Baroque
opera house because it was expensive to maintain and because audiences
came to the opera house to hear solo singing. By the late 17th century, oratorios

Oratorios achieved particular popularity in England because of the efforts of
George Frederic Handel, who began writing English-language oratorios as
the popularity of Italian opera waned in England in the late 1730s and 1740s.
A new middle-class public was emerging that had no interest in the Italianlanguage operas so adored by the aristocracy. Ever the entrepreneur, Handel
discovered that, because of their Protestant
Àavor, their English-language texts, and
their easily accessible music and dramatic
content, his oratorios were extremely
popular with the new middle class.
Handel’s Messiah was premiered during
Easter in Dublin, Ireland on April 13,
1742. The main elements are narrators
who relate the story of Christ’s life in
recitative, narrators and commentators
who interrupt the primary narrative to react
with recitatives and arias of their own, and
a chorus that represents either “the people”
in general or Christianity speci¿cally.
Messiah comprises 50 separate numbers George Friedric Handel.
and is in three parts. The ¿rst part contains
the prophecy of the Messiah’s coming,
Christ’s birth, and the announcement of redemption for all people. The second
part describes human redemption through Christ’s sacri¿ce, humankind’s
rejection of that redemption, and God’s defeat of human opposition to his
power. The third part celebrates eternal life through Christ the Redeemer.
The announcement of Christ’s birth to the shepherds, from the ¿rst part of
the oratorio, is in recitative and comprises four parts. The ¿rst part of this
recitative is secco, meaning that it is accompanied only by the basso continuo

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, (LC-USZ62-59925).

had become a hugely popular form of entertainment. They ¿lled the gap in
Catholic Italy during Lent when theatrical performances, including opera,
were banned. They served as a substitute for opera in Protestant England for
completely different reasons than in Italy.

(here, a ‘cello and organ) and sung by a solo soprano who represents an angel.
The second part is accompanied by the orchestra. The slowly pulsing string
background serves as a sort of musical halo for the angel. The third part is
again secco. Note that when the angels says, “Fear not, for behold I bring
you tidings of great joy,” the music becomes more rhythmically exciting.
The fourth part of the recitative is again accompanied, as the strings portray
the rapid Àapping of angelic wings. Of note is the fact that it is unusual for a
composer to alternate between secco and accompanied recitative, as Handel
does here.

Lecture 13: The Oratorio

The recitative is followed by a chorus that indulges in some musical word
painting. Note the extent to which this music is operatic in its expressive
impact. [Musical selection: Handel, Messiah, recitative and chorus (“Glory
to God”).] The brilliant Hallelujah Chorus that concludes the second part
of Messiah features three different sorts of writing: homophony, imitative
polyphony, and responsorial. [Musical selection: Handel, Messiah,
Hallelujah Chorus.] Ŷ


Genres of Baroque Sacred Music

cantata: Shorter than an oratorio but similar to an oratorio as a work for
chorus, soloists, and orchestra (occasionally the chorus has only a small
part); performed without action or costumes; both secular and sacred cantatas
were written during the Baroque Era; Lutheran church cantatas were part of
the Sunday worship service; typically based on that week’s Bible reading;
written for Protestant (Lutheran) audiences.
magni¿cat: Based on a speci¿c text from the Bible, Luke 1:4655—the
Canticle of the Virgin; Bach’s Magni¿cat i