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Instrumental Suite in the Baroque Period

Introduction

A suite is a musical instrumental masterpiece that consists of a series of changing movements or a series of dances of related keys or it’s a collection of pieces related to each other. In addition, instrumentals refer to a kind of music produced by the use of musical instruments only with no lyrics or any sort of vocal accompaniments. Basically, it is the collection of musical pieces that are interrelated and connected together by a form of common idea or theme.

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The baroque period is a time in history that lasted from around 1600 to 1750. This period was characterized by the baroque approach to art, music, and even architecture. The term baroque originated from the Italian word Barocco which is taken to mean bizarre and that the object under description is uneven and irregular in shape or style and inferior in quality. Other translations of the word have been made and have been taken to mean lively or high spirited or exuberant.

In the modern world, the word baroque has been associated with the kind of music that originated and developed from the early 17th century to through 18th century. During this period, there were monumental changes in the field of instrumental music in that its importance rose to become as significant as that of vocal music both in quality and quantity. This was due to the much new advancement in the instrumental world.

Historical development before the baroque period

Before the eleventh century, music was composed and lost over the centuries since ways of recording and storing music were inexistent. This is because of the difficulties associated with explaining music using words or talking of something like a tune. This was solved by the discovery of a standard to use in the recording of the music and this facilitated the ease of passing down the music through the generations. During this period accompaniments were unheard of hence only voiced music was relied on and most of the songs in this era were church-oriented.

Renaissance brought about a change in the people’s outlook towards the church. The increased freedom of religious affiliations led to the emergence of the secular kind of music as well as dances. Instruments like the lute and the recorder were widespread during this period and the invention of the printing press allowed for standardization in the area of music notion. The press allowed for easier and more accurate recording

The baroque period

With the onset of the Baroque period, secularism was increasing due to the decreased church influence on its followers. The baroque period is the longest consecutive musical phase that had a unique style. It was in this era that the doctrine of affections came to be in that the musicians could show and convey their feelings in their works. The issue of the contrast in the volume, feel and tempo of the music drew attention whereas, before this era, no importance was given to these elements. The homophonic style of music, which is the separation between the melody line in music and the accompaniment developed and later became the dominant style in the instrumental musical forms.

In the baroque era, basso continuo was wholly an instrumental idea and it became one of the most unique characteristics of the baroque era. This style of music was mainly performed using bass instruments and a keyboard in order to produce the required output. This period also witnessed changes in instrumental music where high or low pitches were used repeatedly. Keyboard instruments tuning methods changed with the discovery of the ways to tune them equal-tempered. This made the keys tuning equal. The octaves were divided into twelve parts of the same size which allowed for the use of keys with little or no distortion and made the act of varying between the keys simpler. The instruments used in the renaissance era found their way into the baroque era but there were technological and mechanical modifications to them. These improvements led to the evolution of the instruments to what they are today. The development also saw the rise of the violin which was witnessed in the late 17th century. The increased development of the musical instruments also saw the development of the various dances and styles in the baroque period.

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Before the baroque period, voiced music took precedence over instrumental music. Instruments were mainly used to supplement the words since the music was considered to be through the word of mouth. This started to change with the increased technological and physical changes in musical instruments. A wide variety of different musical instruments the capable of producing a wide range of music in terms of tones, texture and these had a high ability to change emerged as a result. This led to many composers shifting their focus to instrumental music and sometimes they substituted the human voice with instrumental music. The instrumental sounds could then stand on their own as a distinct source of music and dances developed to accompany them and this gave rise to the instrumental suite.

Towards the end of the baroque period, instrumental music was preferred over the vocals and major developments in the instrumentals arose with the rise in theme and variations in music.

Instruments in the baroque period

These included the modifications of the instruments used in the renaissance period together with new innovations like the violin

The keyboard instruments were used together with the bass instruments in basso continuo or in solo music. The keyboard was very important at the time and the three models that were in use were the clavichord, the organ, and the harpsichord. Clavichord had a weak quality of sound but it could produce a variety of beats and was used as a sole instrument or played in a group. The harpsichord had a strong tone but could not produce diverse music and was the main keyboard instrument used in the basso continuo and solo music

The stringed instruments that were common in the 17th century were from the viol family. With the advent of the violin, it became the dominant stringed instrument and its family replaced the viol as the leaders in this field. The viol instruments’ use ebbed away except for the contrabass. The music of the violin became an instrumental signature toward the end of the baroque period while the lute lost its popularity although it did not disappear completely for it continued to be used in some areas though in a small scale.

Wind instruments made of wood which were in use at this period included the bassoon, flute and the oboe. The transverse flute was very common for solo performances but was also used as a part of a group unlike the brass instruments which were used for group performances and not for solo performances. These included the horns, trumpets and the trombones.

Percussion instruments were also a part of the instruments in this period though they were rarely used except for the timpani which was favored for performing the orchestra.

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Music in the baroque era

The renaissance forms of music were passed on at the beginning of this period but as time went by this began to change and new forms of music appeared such as fantasia, capriccio and the canzona. These played on the keyboard musical instruments and were the predecessors of the fugue which replaced them in 17th century. The fugue was meant for all media both group and solo. Keyboards were used for the role of variations which included canzona and the dance suites. The dance movements had two sections. Chorale prelude was based on the music of the baroque organ. This was a predominant church music

The sonata was composed for solo and different chamber groups’ instruments during this period. Having begun in Italy, it comprised of instruments like cello and violin, as well as being played with accompaniments of basso continuo which involved solo instruments and keyboard. The church sonata, which developed in mid 17th century, had some movements that were different in form of rhythm and texture. These included the tower and the turmsonaten sonatas that were made for wind instruments. The chamber sonata on the other hand was a dance suite.

The orchestra music was made essentially for the stringed instruments. This kind of music was not standardized.

Instrumental composers of the baroque period

Composers had already developed the art of combining two or more themes so that they sounded the same John Bach is famed for his loyalty to clavichord and the organ. After his introduction to the piano in the later year of his life he made some major developments in composing a fugue that even by today’s standards is considered one of the best. He had mastered the art of composing concertos, cantatas and oratorios.

George Handel was the second best composer of his time. His works included sonatas, opera and concertos. Corelli archangelo was a violinist who only composed for the instrumentalists and his music was one of the most popular in his time.

Monteverdi was best known for the monumental assistance he gave to the opera in its early stages. He revolutionalized the music landscape by improving on the existing ideas and at times coming up with his own. He came up with new ways to play the viol and later introduced tremolo and pizzicato to the lines. He was very interested in the new music methods.

Other composers included Vivaldi Antonio who used violin in composing music for the solo violin concertos and Henry Purcell who was an organist who composed music for the violinists who played for the king. He composed songs of all genres and he used to work as the keeper of the instruments in the church by repairing and tuning them.

Conclusion

A suite is musical instrumental masterpiece that consists of a series of changing movements or a series of dances of alike or related keys. The baroque period is a time in history that lasted from around 1600 to 1750. This period was characterized by the baroque approach to art, music, and even architecture. In the modern world the word baroque has been associated with the kind of music that originated and developed from the early 17th century to through 18th century.

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There were many characteristics that preceded this era. The period of the renaissance had witnessed increased freedom and changed beliefs and practices. People were freer to do what they aspired and this encouraged the musicians to redefine their methods and tools of trade. This led to emergence of new forms and variations in form of songs, dances and the instruments used. This was carried forward to the baroque era where further evolvement of music and its instruments. The renaissance forms of music were passed on at the beginning of this period but as time went by this began to change and new forms of music appeared. The new music styles started where we see the composers leaning towards the instrumental music which later became more popular than the vocals. Different kinds of dances evolved to accompany the instrumental music leading to development of the instrumental suite.

There were many composers who emerged and developed the structure and forms of the music. They composed vocals, instrumentals or combinations of the two. The content of what the composers composed depended on the environment they were living in at the time and the personalities of these composers

Bibliography

Bukofzer, Manfred. Music in the Baroque Era-From Monteverdi to Bachi. New York; Norton and company Inc, 2008.

Dickinson, Edward. The Study of the History of Music. Charleston: BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2008.

Hinson, Maurice and Montgomery, June. Meet the great composers. London: Alfred Music Publishing, 1995.

Kinscella, Hazel Gertrude. Music and Romance. NY, Kessinger Publishing, 2005.

Wainwright, John & Holman, Peter. From renaissance to the Baroque: change in instruments and instrumental music in the seventeenth century. Hampshire: Ashgate publishing limited, 2005.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Instrumental Suite in the Baroque Period'. 2 January.

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