Baroque and Classical Wordpainting Techniques

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Renaissance and Baroque composers were faced with the task of creating complex pieces that express both human emotion and ideas. While this is primarily one of the main purposes of all forms of music itself, including genres today, in the 15th through 18th centuries, this was largely done through the musical composition of a piece rather than the lyrics. Composers utilized several different techniques in order to portray to the listener the purpose and meaning of the piece. Renaissance composers were focused on furthering the texts in music, fully developing the lyrics Therefore, the use of word painting, the musical representation of a literal word, phrase, or poetic image, is clearly seen in many pieces. Baroque music, with the institution of the opera being created, was able to fully examine human emotion and the expression of characters. While word painting continued to be used, the use of the aria in operas enabled the audience to witness an outpouring of emotions through a soloist. The techniques used during the Renaissance era were carried over into the Baroque era and were expanded upon in order to provide for more in depth expression.

The madrigal originated in Italy in the 16th century. This type of a piece, which was designed for several soloists with the text being a short poem, was the result of an outpouring of Italian poetry during the Renaissance. As a result, the madrigal has very poetic images and its musical composition speaks to that same idea. The English madrigalist, Thomas Weelkes, displays typical characteristics of a madrigal in his work, As Vesta Was Descending from The Triumphes of Oriana (1601). This madrigal paints the image of Vesta, who is the Roman goddess of the hearth (her flame was protected by the nine "Vestal virgins"), descending a hill with her attendants, while Oriana, who is Queen Elizabeth, is climbing the same hill with her young shepherds. The main text of the song, and its parallel musical composition, depicts the...
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