Renaissance Secular Music

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Vocal Music
During the Renaissance, secular vocal
music became increasingly popular
 Music was set to poems in various
languages, including: Italian, French,
Spanish, German, Dutch, and English
 The development of music printing
helped spread secular music

Vocal Music
Music was an important leisure activity,
every educated person was expected to
be able to play an instrument and read
notation
 Renaissance secular music was written
for groups of solo voices and for solo
voice with accompaniment
 Word painting was common

Vocal Music
An important kind of secular vocal music
during the Renaissance was the
madrigal
 A madrigal is a piece for several solo
voices set to a short poem, usually
about love
 A madrigal combines homophonic and
polyphonic textures

Vocal Music
The Renaissance madrigal originated in
Italy around 1520
 Madrigals were published by the
thousands in 16th century Italy, where
they were sung by cultivated aristocrats
 In 1588 a volume of translated Italian
madrigals was published in London
 This triggered a spurt of madrigal writing
by English composers

Vocal Music
For about 30 years there was a constant
flow of English madrigals and other
secular vocal music.
 The time of Queen Elizabeth I (15331603) and William Shakespeare (15641616) was as much a golden age in
English music as it was in English
literature.

Vocal Music
Among the finest English madrigalists
was Thomas Weelkes (about 15751623)
 He was an organist and church
composer
 Weelkes was baptized in the little village
church of Elsted in Sussex on 25
October 1576

Vocal Music
In 1597 his first volume of madrigals was
published
 At the end of 1598, at the probable age of
22, Weelkes was appointed organist at
Winchester College
 During his Winchester period, Weelkes
composed a further two volumes of
madrigals (1598, 1600)
 Weelkes' fourth and final volume of
madrigals, published in 1608, carries a title
page where he refers to himself as a
Gentleman of the Chapel Royal

Vocal Music
A simpler type of secular vocal music
than the madrigal was the ballett (or fala)
 It is a dancelike song for several solo
voices
 In contrast to most Renaissance music,
the ballett was mostly homophonic in
texture, with the melody in the highest
voice

Vocal Music
The same music is repeated for each
stanza of the poem, and the syllables fala are used as refrain
 Like the madrigal, the Renaissance
ballett originated in Italy
 The ballett was cultivated in England
from around 1595 to the 1620s

Vocal Music
Among the most widely performed of all
balletts is one by Thomas Morely
 He lived from 1557-1603
 He was an English composer best know
for his madrigals
 Morley lived for a time in the same
parish as Shakespeare, and a
connection between the two has been
long speculated, but never proven


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