Free «Music of the Renaissance» Essay Sample

The Renaissance period has become a new successful stage in the development of European culture. The musical Renaissance has started around 100 years after the actual Renaissance. Thanks to the development of printing a lot of musical pieces have survived until nowadays and gave a chance for modern historians to explore the period and its peculiar patterns. This research is focused on the development of music in the Renaissance period and on the specific features of musical art at that time.


The musical Renaissance lasted from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century and can be separated into a number of specific periods. In the early period the church music has faced a significant change with a creation of polyphonic melodies and Latin motets and messes (McComb). But with the decreasing influence of the Catholic Church and the Reformation period the new musical influence was split between the Catholic and Protestant churches, as well as the courts and wealthy amateurs (Arkenberg). The music of Protestantism has developed in Germany into Chorales and hymns. In the beginning of the musical Renaissance the sphere was dominated by composers from England and the Northern Europe. The late fifteenth century was a start for the use of print for musical purposes. This was also a time for great developments in the sphere of musical instruments. In the beginning of the sixteenth century the Franco-Flemish composers became the new leaders in the musical sphere. 

The late Renaissance is famous for several specific changes in the musical style. In Venice during the second half of the sixteenth century a new polychoral style has developed. It has laid the background of the following era of the Baroque music after spreading throughout Europe from Germany and Spain to England and France (Arkenberg). The Roman School is usually contrasted with the Venetian music and is more traditional than the latter. Furthermore, in the late sixteenth and the first part of the seventeenth century the Madrigal School has developed in England. These madrigals were mostly written for three to six voices and began as a copy of Italian models but were lighter in style and written a cappella (Sherrane). There were three different forms of Madrigals in England: the madrigal proper, the ballet, and the Ayre (Fuller). Lastly, it is essential to note that with the conquest of the New World a new musical style was developing in Mexico. The musical practices of the New World have coincided with the once of Europe, but have used the local peculiarities in order to create a new unique style.

Main Patterns

The music of the period was under the great influence of the global patterns of the Renaissance. Same as the whole culture, the music was free from the medieval limitations and thus has moved to the new developmental stage. Music became more personalized and gave authors a possibility to express their feelings. Through the development of print it was easier to spread information and involve more people not only creation, but also in the musical performance. The new class, the bourgeoisie, became involved in the creation of new musical pieces with the growing number of amateur composers. In fact the Renaissance period has become the first time in the history of arts when music was considered to be self-sufficient sphere that existed on its’ own.

One of the significant changes of the Renaissance was the growing importance of instrumental music. Until the sixteenth century musical instruments were used only to accompany singing and dancing but were generally considered to be less important than voice. But during the Renaissance period many composers have paid special attention to writing musical pieces only for instruments.

The Renaissance music period can be defined by a number of characteristic features. Richard Fuller defines seven main patterns, which separate this music period from all the others. Firstly, although being still based on models, the Renaissance music has faced more accidentals than the previous periods. Secondly, this period in music history is famous for adding bass parts, as well as making the overall texture richer. The Renaissance music pieces consisted of at least four parts. Thirdly, in the musical texture of the period parts were blended much more often than contrasted. Harmony also began to play an extremely significant role. The Church music has faced a significant change with the introduction of new a cappella practices, as well as music accompanied by instruments. Many new pieces were created for either vocal or instrumental performance in the secular music, but vocal music during the Renaissance period was more important. Lastly, the musical instruments of this period have set the basis for the development of many forming families (Fuller).


Music of the period was developing rapidly. On the contrary to the previous historical periods mode people were involved in both creation and performance. Therefore, the Renaissance period has faced the creation of a number of new genres. Many of them are famous for some particular composers.

Among the most influential composers of the early Musical Renaissance was Guillaume Du Fay from the Burundian court (McComb). He crated a number of messes and motets for sacred services. But, at the same time, this composer is famous for his pieces written for French poetry (Arkenberg). These are famous for the new lyrical melodic tunes, which were new to European music. This composer has set the background for all the Renaissance musicians.

From the Franco-Flemish composers of the early sixteenth century Josquin des Prez was the most famous one (Sherrane). He has followed the tradition of the time and travelled through Europe, incorporating musical patterns of different countries into one European style (Arkenberg). This composer has focused primarily on Church music in Latin and composed motets in messes in a variety of styles. Along with music for the French court poetry de Prez had also created arrangements for many popular French songs. In addition, he was working in the new genre of instrumental music.

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina is the best-known representative of the Roman school of Renaissance music. This composer is famous for his sacred musical works. This composer has left hundreds of various music compositions, which have become a basis for church music in the upcoming centuries. One of Palestina’s masses became a background for Bach’s Mass in B minor.


The Renaissance period has led to the development in many spheres of European arts and science, which included the development of musical art. It was the first time in history when music was perceived as a separate independent piece of art. Moreover, this was a period for the development of instrumental music, which meant that musical instruments were used not only to accompany singing and dancing, but also to perform independent pieces. Another significant pattern of the Renaissance period was the secularization of music. Thanks to the growing role of print, it was possible to spread music among larger population and thus involve more people in performing and composing. This was especially important with the emergence of the bourgeois class which rapidly got involved in performance and composing of musical pieces. Overall the Renaissance period played a significant role not only in the development of musical genres, but also in popularization of music.


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