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LISTEN: Arcadelt, Il bianco e dolce cigno (The White and Gentle Swan) (1539) [Text] Toward the end of the 16th century, madrigals became more tortuous harmonically and more aggressive in their use of musical devices to project the text's meaning and character.Luca Marenzio (1553-1599) was the most celebrated "madrigalist" of his day.Some sections of Leonin's polyphony were sped up and rhythmicized; later composers added the words of devotional poems to Leonin's notes.This example uses the Alleluia pascha nostrum plainchant as its tenor; it was sung as part of Easter services at the spectacular Gothic cathedral Notre Dame of Paris.A group of brief "voltes" is reproduced here; the volte was a dance from Southwest France in which the woman leapt high in the air ("volte" = vault).Praetorius gave no indication of what instruments were to be used--his dances were played by whatever instruments were available.
Different dance styles corresponded to different underlying musical rhythms (as with today's Latin dance music). -1621) composed a large set of dances entitled "Terpsichore," after the Greek Muse of dance.Here, the Early Music Consort of London switches between four different "consorts" of instruments, one per volte, before all four consorts play the end of the fourth volte together.A consort was a set of instruments similar in design and tone but varied in size and pitch.LISTEN: Machaut, Motet: Trop plus/Biaute paree/Je ne suis (c.1350) [Text] The tradition of the motet continued into the 15th century. 1400-1474), the most renowned composer of his time, composed grand motets for ceremonial occasions in early Renaissance Italy.
Limited in pitch range and monophonic (i.e., composed of a single melody with no accompaniment), plainchant was sung largely by monks, nuns, and clerics rather than by professional singers.