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1 Baroque Period (1600-1750)

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Baroque Period


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Baroque Period

The word means bizarre, flamboyant, and elaborately ornamented

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Baroque Period

Artists of the time; Bernini, Rubens, and Rembrant exploited their materials to expand the potential of color, detail, ornament, and depth.

In France Louis XIV held court in the beautifully ornate palace of Versailles.

The style was also shaped by the needs of churches trying to make worship more attractive

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Baroque Period

This was also the time of Galileo (1564-1642) and Newton (1642-1727).

These innovators represented a new approach to science and mathematics

Galileo Newton

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Baroque Composers

The two greatest Baroque composers were George Frederic Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach.

Handel Bach

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Baroque Period

The period can be divided into 3 periods: Early 1600-1640 Middle 1640-1680 Late 1680-1750

We will be discussing music from the late Baroque period

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Baroque style writing

Middle Baroque composers began using new scales (minor scales) instead of the church modes when writing their music

By about 1680 major and minor scales were the tonal basis for all composition. Also during this time instrumental music became more important

Compositions were written for specific instruments (the violin family being the most popular)

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Features of late Baroque music

Unity of Mood If it begins joyfully, it will end joyfully Emotional states (joy, grief,or agitation) were called


Composers molded a musical mood to fit these affections The exception to this rule is vocal music because when the mood

of the words changed, the music had to change, but it did so gradually

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Features of late Baroque music

Rhythm Unity of mood is conveyed through continuity of rhythm.

Rhythm provides drive and energy. Forward motion is always maintained and the beat is felt more than in most Renaissance music.

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Features of late Baroque music

Melody Continuity of melody is also heard in Baroque music. If you hear one melody at the beginning of a piece

you will also hear it at the end of the piece.

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Features of late Baroque music

Dynamics Continuous levels of dynamics are also maintained in Baroque music When they do shift, it is sudden.

This shift from suddenly soft to suddenly loud is called terraced dynamics Gradual changes from soft to loud were not a

prominent feature of the period

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Features of late Baroque music

Texture The music of the late Baroque period is mainly polyphonic in texture The soprano or bass line is the most important Imitation between voices or melodies is important

Not all Baroque music is polyphonic Some pieces may shift in texture between

polyphonic and homophonic

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Features of late Baroque music

Chords and the Basso Continuo Chords became increasingly important during this era In early music the beauty of the individual melody

was most important later this music evolved, the selection of just the right

chords to fit the melody became important

The bass became the prominent feature and the entire musical structure of the piece rested on it.

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Basso Continuo

Means Continuous BassOne of the prominent features of Baroque

musicUsually played by 2 instruments:

A keyboard instrument, and a low melodic instrument like the cello or bassoon

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Figured Bass

Baroque composers wrote their bass parts using figured bass. The performer was allowed to improvise what chords to play using the figured bass cues under the music.

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Words and Music

Like the composers of the Renaissance, Baroque composers also used word painting to depict the meaning of the text of their music The word heaven might be set to high tones, the work hell to

low tones. Descending chromatic scales were associated with pain and grief.

Baroque composers also emphasized words by writing many rapid notes for a single syllable of text

This technique also displayed a singer’s virtuosity.

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The Baroque Orchestra

During this era, the orchestra evolved into a performing group based on instruments of the violin family. Smaller than today’s orchestras, it was made up of between 10 and 40 players

The instrumentation would vary depending on the music being played.

The heart of the orchestra was the basso continuo (harpsichord plus cello, double bass or bassoon)

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The Baroque Orchestra

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The Baroque Orchestra

It also contained upper strings (violins and violas)

Using woodwinds, brass and percussion depended on the music being played

This is different from today’s orchestra which always contains 4 sections: strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion.

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Baroque FormsBaroque Forms

Baroque music usually stays in the same mood for the entire piece

If it starts slow, it ends slow

If it starts happy, it ends happy, etc

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Baroque Forms (continued)Baroque Forms (continued)

To change moods, Baroque composers would write music in sets of pieces

Each piece of the set could have a different mood These individual songs in a set are called movements.

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Baroque MovementsA movement is a piece that sounds complete, but is

part of a bigger composition

Usually each movement has its own themes, comes to a definite end, and is separated from the next movement by a brief pause

By doing this, a Baroque composer can have contrast in his music

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Baroque Movements (cont.)

The first movement can be quick and lively, the second slow and solemn, and a concluding movement that is quick, light and humorous

Baroque music is all about contrast. Fast to slow, slow to fast, soft to loud, loud to soft,

many to few, few to many

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Music in Baroque society

Before 1800 music was written to meet specific demands that came from churches and aristocratic courts

The ruling class surrounded themselves with luxury and needed entertainment

This entertainment came in the form of music, and each court had its own composer and stable of musicians

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Court Composer

Wrote and produced the music for all performances at the court

This music included:operas, church music, dinner music, and pieces for court concerts

The composer was the director of the music, the musicians, the library of music and was for all accounts just another servant

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Church Music

Churches also needed music, and church music was often very grand

These Baroque churches had organs, choirs and orchestras to accompany services

Church was were ordinary citizens heard music

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Musical Form

Contrast is an important factor in Baroque music

This principal is also important in a form of Baroque music called the concerto grosso

In this form, a small group of musicians is pitted against the

full orchestra

Usually the small group is between 2-4 soloists and the tutti (everyone else) is made up of between 8 and 20 (or more)

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Concerto Grosso Form

Consists of several movements that contrast in tempo and character

Usually these pieces come in 3 movements. 1. Fast 2. Slow 3. Fast

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Concerto Grosso Form

The first and last movements of a concerto are usually written in ritornello form

Ritornello means refrainThis form is based on the alternation between the

tutti and solo sections of instruments The theme which is played by the tutti returns in

different keys throughout the piece, but usually you only hear fragments of it. Only at the end of the piece do you hear the entire theme played again in the home key

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Ritornello form 1.

a. Tutti ( f ), ritornello in home key b. Solo

2. a. Tutti ( f ), ritornello fragment b. Solo

3. a. Tutti ( f ), ritornello fragment b. Solo

4. Tutti ( f ), ritornello in home key

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Johann Sebastian Bach

Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major (about 1721) Listening outline on page 135

Allegro The allegro movement opens with the ritornello, which is an almost

continuous flow of rapid notes After the ritornello ends the soloist presents short melodic ideas. The

flute and violin imitate each other playfully The appearance of the soloist brings a lower dynamic level and a new

tone color, the flute

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Brandenburg Concerto (cont.)

After a while, the tutti returns loudly with a brief fragment of the ritornello, only to give way to a new soloist

This alternation between the brief, relatively loud ritornello fragments in the tutti, and longer, softer, solo sections continues throughout the movement

Only the harpsichord plays during the long final solo section

Bach builds to a tense high point for this movement through irresistible rhythm and dazzling scale passages that require a virtuoso’s skill

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The Fugue

A cornerstone of Baroque music It can be written for a group of instruments or voices

or for a single instrumentA fugue is a polyphonic composition based on one

main theme called a subjectThroughout a fugue, different melodic lines, or

voices, imitate the subject The texture of a fugue usually contains 3-5 voices or


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Baroque Fugues

The subject remains the same throughout the piece, but takes on new meanings when shifted to different keys or combined with different melodic or rhythmic ideas.

The form of a fugue is extremely flexibleThe only constant feature is how they begin-

The subject is almost always presented in a single, unaccompanied voice

By highlighting the subject the composer tells us what to remember and listen for

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What’s a Fugue?

A fugue is similar to a round (canon) like row, row, row your boat, except the voices do not always follow the leader in an exact manner

A fugue’s opening differs from a round because as each new voice appears it does not use the same exact notes

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What’s a Fugue?

If the fugue’s melody begins on the tonic scale C-D-E the first time, it will be stated a second time a 5th higher The second time the melody is heard, it is based on the

dominant scale:G-A-B. This second hearing of the melody is called the answer.

In fugues, the subject is often constantly accompanied in another voice by a different melodic idea. This is called a counter-subject. A constant companion, the counter-subject always appears with the subject, sometimes below it, sometimes above.

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What’s a Fugue?

After the opening of the fugue, when each voice has taken its turn at presenting the subject, the composer is free to decide how often the subject will be presented, in which keys, and in which voices

Between presentations of the subject, the are often transitional sections called episodes, which offer new material or fragments of the subject or counter-subject.

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What’s a Fugue?

A fugue can be varied in four principle ways: 1. It can be turned upside down. Called inversion. If the

subject goes up by steps or leaps, the inversion will move down by steps or leaps.

2. It can be presented in retrograde. By beginning with the last note of the subject and proceeding to the first note.

3. It can be presented in augmentation, where the original time values are lengthened.

4. It can be presented in diminution, where the original time values are shortened.

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Johann Sebastian Bach

Organ Fugue in G Minor (Little Fugue; about 1709)Each of the four voices takes a turn presenting the

subject It appears first in the top voice and then appears

progressively until it reaches the lowest voice, which is played by the organist’s feet on the pedal keyboard

The subject gathers momentum as it goes along, beginning with longer note values and then proceeding to shorter ones

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Organ Fugue in G Minor (Little Fugue; about 1709) Cont.

Listen to: Starting with its second appearance, the subject is accompanied

by a counter-subject that moves in shorter time values.

After the opening section, the subject appears five more times, each time proceeded by an episode

For harmonic contrast, Bach twice presents the subject in major keys rather than minor. He also ends on a major chord because at the time, major chords were thought to be more conclusive than minor chords.