With What Justification Is the Year 1600 Singled Out as a Turning Point in the History of Music ?

Topics: Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Music, Baroque music Pages: 5 (1516 words) Published: April 8, 2013

With what justification is the year 1600 singled out as a turning point in the history of music ? Sile Somers (1118 Words)

In music and other arts, periodisation groups the continuous flow of works by their time and certain characteristics . Period groupings are defined by the perception that the works within them share a single quality or a set of qualities that are significant. One must remember that periodisation is a device used in hindsight for critical analysis and debate, and consider that it may become intellectually limiting if merely accepted and not challenged . 1

The period in Western music extending approximatel y from the year 1600 to the year 1750 has, in hindsight, been dubbed the ‘Baroque Era’ by music historians. 2 The word ‘baroque’ s tems from the Portuguese word barroco, which translates into English as ‘misshapen pearl’. In this way, the term was used as a negative description of the ornate and heavil y ornamented st yle of the period. The apparent turning point in the st yle of western music around the beginning of the seventeenth century came about as a combination of changes in particular areas of music. These changes were both revolutionary and evolutionary. Some were instigated intentionall y by certain influential groups, such as the Florentine Camerata, a group of musicians, poets and intellectuals who gathered under the patronage of Count Giovanni de Bardi in order to discuss and guide trends in the arts . 3 However some precursors to features of Baroque music are found far back in t he Renaissance. Generall y speaking, the main areas of change were those of tonalit y, texture, instrumentation, and orchestration. 1

Periodization of the Arts – What is a period ? (http://science.jrank.org/pages/10626/Periodization-Arts-What-Period.html) 10 November 2012 2 Palisca, Claude V., ‘Baroque’, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001) 3 Claude Palisca, The Florentine Camerata: Documentary Studies and Translations(New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 4.


Figured bass was widespread in use by the time the seventeenth centur y had arrived. Organ accompaniment for choral works, impr ovised over a bass line, had become more common by the late sixteenth century with the development of the concertato by the Gabrielis . 4 With reference to music theory, this use of thorough bass represented the growing importance of harmony. 5 Harmony is the end result of counterpoint, and figured bass was a visual representation of the harmony employed in performance. 6 Composers began concentrating their efforts on harmonic progressions directed towards tonalit y instead of modalit y, leading to the idea of closure through

progressions of chords as opposed to notes . It is in this rise of tonalit y that we can see the shift from Renaissance to Baroque music. The rise of monody, meaning ‘one song’, is another significant indicator of the change in m usic from the late Renaissance period to the earl y Baroque. This idea of one solo voice singing the melody over a rhythmicall y independent bass line greatl y contrasted with the former practice of finel y balanced pol yphonic counterpoint. It grew from an att empt by the Florentine Camerata in the late sixteenth century to restore the Ancient Greek ideas of melody. Examples of monodic compositions of this time would be madrigals, motets and the concertatos mentioned previousl y. 7 In the year 1600, a distinguish ed theorist, Artusi, waged war on the much younger composer, Monteverdi , in the form of a publication criticising his modern treatment of both texture and harmony in his madrigals . At the time of its publication, Artusi did not disclose to whom his treatise referred, but this was made clear a few years later when Monteverdi published his fifth book of madrigals, the first of which was the madrigal referenced in Artusi’s book. He also gave a dedication, in which he dismissed Artusi’s claim that 4...
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