• Dear Harmony Chamber Orchestra Musicians and Families,

    I am so excited about our upcoming concert! I couldn’t be happier with the camaraderie of this ensemble and the musical progress you have all worked so hard to accomplish. I enjoy working with each and every one of you and am looking forward to continuing to make music together throughout the year. Please refer to the email from Ms. Cheryl regarding all logistical details for your concert next week, on Wednesday, Nov. 16.

    One of my goals for this year has been to introduce you to the general history of Western music through the use of a musical timeline format. Our concert in January will be a brief survey of string orchestral music beginning with the Renaissance period and progressing to the present day. Yesterday, we discussed the general characteristics of Medieval and Renaissance music and sight-read a portion of a Palestrina motet that I arranged for strings. Below you will see the outline I mentioned with some of the highlights of Medieval/Renaissance music and the role stringed instruments played in the development of Western instrumental music. Please review this material, as I believe it will enhance your appreciation of the different styles of music we will be playing. I will send along similar outlines for the later periods of music, throughout the coming weeks.

    Have a great weekend, and remember… the only “secret” to accomplishing your personal musical goals belongs to you… stick to it and practice!

    Ms. Sue

    Medieval and Renaissance

    450-early 1600’s

    Most of the surviving music manuscripts of the Medieval period of music consist of sacred vocal music composed for religious services. The Christian Church was the primary patron of music and the arts during this period.

    Music notation was a tool used by the monks in order to memorize many melodies to accompany texts for religious services. This music was called plainchant, whichconsisted of a single melody without a measured rhythm, creating a monophonic texture, (single melody). Today this music is often referred to as Gregorian Chant.

    Toward the mid to late Medieval period, chant developed into a polyphonic texture, a form with several interdependent, overlapping melodic lines. (Palestrina Motet).

    During the 12th century, the aristocracy and royal courts began to play an important role in music, both as patrons as well as performers. Secular music developed, still mostly vocal, and included songs such as ballatas, rondeaus, caccias, and virelai. These songs were performed by troubadours, jongleurs, golliards, and some were traveling entertainers and poets, as well as those associated with courts.

    Very few notated manuscripts of instrumental music have survived, although artwork from this period depicts musicians playing instruments. Instruments were used frequently to accompany vocal lines or to improvise instrumental dances.

    The melodic range of music during this period usually was quite small, and based on church modes, rather than the scales that we are more familiar with today. The Harmonic structure of chords and tonality that we know of from later dates did not exist. Music appeared to be constructed and heard as separate lines rather than chordal sonorities.

    During the 16th century, playing the violin was primarily considered a trade. Lutes or viols were considered more sophisticated choices for the aristocracy, and learning to play these instruments was a part of the education of the “well-born”.

    Important Composers of the Late Renaissance

    Pierluigi da Palestrina, 1525-1594, a major figure in Catholic music in Rome, who is known for developing and perfecting sacred polyphony.

    Claudio Monteverdi, 1567-1643, a late Renaissance composer who wrote madrigals, (Italian vocal music), and is known as one of the first writers of opera.

    Here are examples of Early Music, all live performances except the first:

    Orchestral (and some vocal) Medieval Music pre-1500: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPkLhSVtPS4
    Josquin des Prez (b?-died 1521): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrYCyopfo9Y
    Palestrina (1525-1594): Performed by the Tallis Scholars, the most reputable Early Music ensemble: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4VoKso5ERI
    Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5_qClRojFw
    Two exciting examples of Medieval music adapted by modern French groups, more reflective of how music was performed at the fairs and tournaments very common in medieval Europe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsvFpI3diXA and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pEdfwqPFns