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The Baroque Period:
What is the Baroque Era?
• The Baroque era was a time in history where much of what we know about our surroundings are being discovered.
• There is more focus on the human emotions and complex ornamentations that can be found in literature, art, and music.
• The meaning of “Baroque” is: An ugly, deformed and fermented pearl.
Important Baroque Thinkers:
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642): He is known for perfecting the telescope and is also known as the father of Modern Astronomy. He asserted the idea that the earth was not in fact the center of the universe as previously thought.
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727): He was an English Physicist and Mathematician. Most famous for “Newton’s Law” and the idea of “gravity”. He also established a scientific method that is still used today.
It’s all about the fancy stuff!
Notice the ornate style of the buildings:
Typical Baroque Hallways and Corridors.
• Art from the Baroque Era can best described as “dark”, “dramatic”, central to one specific human emotion.
• They sometimes represent serious themes that can include but not be limited to: social issues, religion, and political portraits.
• Colors and painting styles are very dramatic, but most importantly very ORNATE!
Notice, that the subject matter is “focused” to one direction of the paintings. The colors in general are dark in nature, but very detailed in texture.
• It is with no exception that Baroque Era music would show some of those many embellishments and ornamentation found in other areas of society.
• Like the paintings, the music focused on one specific feeling and/or emotion.
• We begin to see a wide variety of styles emerge along with various instruments being used.
Throughout the Baroque period, composers continued to be employed by the church and wealthy ruling class. This system of employment was called the patronage system. As the patron paid the composer for each work and usually decided what kind of piece the composer should write, this limited their creative freedom. Important Baroque composers include Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederic Handel, Johann Pachelbel, Georg Phillip Telemann, Henry Purcell and Antonio Vivaldi.
Music Characteristics: Form
• Dances were popular during this period as well as preludes, fugues, suites, toccatas and theme and variations. Binary and ternary forms were used frequently.
• Two or more melodies played at the same time created a musical texture called counterpoint. There were frequent harmonic changes. Tonality was based on major and minor keys.
• The clavichord, harpsichord, and organ were used.
• Emphasis was on strong beats, upbeats and fast-changing rhythmic motion. Eighths, 16ths and triplets were frequently used.
• Phrase and expression marks were not used. Faster notes were normally played smooth; slower notes were normally played not very smooth. Ornaments were used frequently.
• Composers like Johann Sebastian Bach reacted to the Baroque trend of fancy ornamentation by creating complex polyphonic music consisting of elaborate melodies layered top of each other. Often these melodies contained trills and fast moving notes. The idea of using chords to accompany one or more melody lines also became common. In addition, composers began to write dynamics and tempo markings in their music. Improvisation also became common, even in the Church. Finally, composers began to use their music to express emotions such as joy and anger.
• The Baroque period saw the birth of a new form of music called opera. Opera combined music, acting, scenery, costumes, and props. Actors and actresses sing the script, or libretto. Some Operas are serious (opera seria), and some are funny (opera buffa).
• The first opera was “Orfeo", by Claudio Monteverdi.
• Similar to the opera is the cantata. The Cantata, like the opera, is a series of arias and recitatives. However, the cantata is not staged or acted.
• During the Baroque period, instrumental music became as important as vocal music. The Baroque period saw a rise in music for flute, oboe, bassoon, trombone, valve-less trumpets and horns, harpsichord, and organ. Recorders became less popular, and viols were gradually replaced by violins, violas, and cellos. Timpani was the only percussion instrument used in serious music.
• Much of the music written for instruments contained several contrasting sections or movements. One example is the concerto. Concertos were developed in the second half of the 17th century by Italian composers like Torelli, Alessandro Scarlatti, and Corelli. Within 25 years, almost all major centres had their own concerto composer. One of the most famous concertos is Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
• Concertos sometimes featured one soloist or a group of soloists. Concertos featuring a group of soloists were known as concerto grossos. Concerto grossos were written for a group of solo instruments and orchestra, and usually contained three movements (fast-slow-fast).
Upper Left: An assortment of baroque era string instruments. Upper Right: The Clavichord. Bottom Left: Baroque Trumpets.
Some Notable Composers:
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Claudio Montiverdi (1567-1643)
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
• Complete the “Questionnaire” found online titled: “Baroque Era Presentation”.
• You will also complete the “Music Era Worksheet” also found online.
• Both papers are to be printed and submitted for next class! September 21, 2011.