The Blog

CA 1440- CA 1521

• Highly successful and renewed in his day, northern French (late Gothic era)
• Great master of contrapuntal techniques: canonic writing, imitative counterpoint
• Rich in emotional expression, his music embodies the humanism of his time
• Vocal settings sought to express the meaning of the text through frequent use of syllabic text setting and slower matching of musical stresses with accentuation of the text and word painting
• Modal harmonies –triadic(3rd and 6th)often spiced with dissonance.
MOTET: close to 100, including Ave Maria….virgo serena ,Absalon, fili mi
MASES: 18, Missa L’homme arme, Missa La sol fa re mi.
CHANSON :over 60, El grillo, Mille regretz

• The earliest mass settings took the form of monophonic chats (Haec dies from the Gregorian Mass for Easter Sunday)
• The 12th and 13th many chants particularly the Mass Proper served the basis for Organum
• 1st complete polyphonic setting of the Mass Ordinary –Messe de Nostre Dame by Guillaume de Machaut is the longest extant work from the Middle Ages.
• An important service in Roman Catholic Church, it includes prayers, readings from the Bible and re-enactment of the Last Supper – referred to as Holly Communion (Eucharist)
• “Mass” means go, you are dismissed.
• In the Renaissance era composers used polyphonic settings of the 5 movements of the Mass Ordinary to demonstrate their mastery of contrapuntal devices
• Composers often used secular songs as melodic sources for the cantus firmus (L’homme arme is based on a popular battle tune)
• Other devices could be linked thematically (same motive or cantus firmus might be used throughout the 5 sections of the Mass Ordinary)
• Masses could also be freely composed, based entirely on new material
MARTIN LUTHER (1458-1546)
• Leader of he Protestant reformation and founder of the Lutheran Church
• Posted his “Ninety-Five Theses” in 1517
• The service in German instead of Latin and engaging the congregation by replacing elaborate polyphonic settings of the mass with simpler music: German chorales with monophonic hymn tunes that were easy to sing
• Because of the translated bible the congregation could now actively participate in the music of the service using their native language.
• 16TH Christian reform movement in Europe
• Led by Martin Luther
• Resulted in formation of many new Protestant denominations
• Mid 16th reaction of the Catholic Church to the Protestant Reformation
• The Church’s attempt to win back support and regain political power
• Response to challenges to authority included the Council of Trent.
• A series of meeting of the highest Catholic Church officials
• Took place in Trento, Italy from 1545-1563
• Condemned “Protestant heresies “and reaffirmed the doctrines of Catholicism
• Recommendations regarding liturgical music included:
o The text should be audible
o The counterpoint should not be dense
o Except for organ, instruments should not be used
o Harmonic writing should avoid intense chromaticism
o Use of secular cantus firmus banned (forbidden)
o Displays of virtuosity should be avoided.
• His compositions reflected his deep personal faith with a reverent, spiritual character
• Vocal polyphony in a cappela style
• The “Palestine style” of vocal polyphony has defined Renaissance polyphony and served as a model for counterpoint students to this day
• Employed polyphony balanced with homorhythmic textures (chordal declamation)
• Approaches to mass composition includes cantus firmus, parody, paraphrase, canonic; Performing forces range from 4to 6 voice.
• Individual vocal lines moved mostly by step or narrow leap
• Clarity in text setting was achieved through chordal texture, clear-cut phrases, and musical accents that corresponded with the text.
• Dissonance was avoided or used with care (passing note or off the beat; if on the beat resolved immediately)
MOTETS: over 300 including Lauda Sion and Alma Redemptoris Mater
MASSES: over 100, Missa L’homme arme, missa Lauda Sion
• Other liturgical works, hymn and magnificants.
• Madrigals: sacred and secular