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Music From the Renaissance Into the Baroque


Melody in music is any single and complete note of countenance in favor of large intervals. The objective of melody is to circumvent any impression of tonality (Kerman & Tomlinson, 2019). In the Renaissance era, the melody was chiefly polyphonic, with each voice possessing a unique bass line (Cherevko et al., 2020). Moreover, between 14th and the 17th century, a polyphonic piece of music was not dependent on a single melody, rather than numerous overlapped melodies. In the Baroque era, homophony was instituted, replacing the polyphony established in the Renaissance period (Kerman & Tomlinson, 2019). In this case, the concept of homophony describes melody coupled with its accompaniment, rather than it being marked by several single bass lines (Cherevko et al., 2020. The fugue was a result of the development of polyphony from the Renaissance into the Baroque era, where musical texts in vocal cords were highly intensified. The most prominent assortment of the contrapuntal piece is the 48 preludes and fugues by Bach.

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In the Classical era, melody followed a particular theme underpinned by the concept of balance and contrast, resulting in such patterns as sonata, concerto, and symphony. For instance, Beethoven transcribed 32 piano sonatas and nine symphonies, thus, indicating how melodies of this era seemed shorter than those in the Baroque period, with clear-cut expressions, and visibly noticeable cadences. In the Romantic era, melody formed the core model of the romantic style. During this time, the melody became unrestricted in practice than in the Classical era, and the ideas of through-composed melody and endless melody materialized. The Leitmotif technique was associated with melody in this era, thus involving the association of such a particular melody or phrase a character in music as indicated in an opera of the German Wagner (Cherevko et al., 2020). Furthermore, Virtuoso soloists impressed listeners with their extraordinary instrumental skills creating a Concerto with a single exposition (Kerman & Tomlinson, 2019). In the contemporary world, the theory of melody has detonated. As such, the melody may be a solitary note or a minority of musical notes as a substitute for the outdated soaring arc. Sometimes, the new forms of music do not contain melody at all as compared to the traditional days.


In the Renaissance period and the early middle ages, harmony evolved from the concept of early polyphony, described as music comprising of numerous voices, to ultimately a strict melodic polyphony. During this period, great theorist such as Aristoxenus described harmony in music as a succession of tones within the octave; well known as scale in the contemporary era. Harmony developed into such concepts as the Pythagorean ideal, denoted by consonance within its modest numerical fractions or ratios of the fourths, fifths, and octaves (Kerman & Tomlinson, 2019). However, as time progressed, harmony was later described as gym, an element responsible for voices moving equivalently at intervals of a third. The harmonic music style was dependent on the thirds, where Sumer was denoted as icumen in canon. The English composer John Dunstable made harmonic ratios of the third and sixths to be accepted as consonant intervals, with disregard to the previously used dissonant (Kerman & Tomlinson, 2019). However, harmony in this era was composed of greater challenges of flow and advancement in musical chords.

During this time, the music framework of tonality, with the use of positive keynotes in harmonic musical style was applied. It was designated at the point of exit as well as at the point of onset at the absolute cadence. Later in the Baroque era, music harmonic practice led to the end of the antique modal systems and developed into the common major and minor modes (Kerman & Tomlinson, 2019). The purity of modes in harmonic composition was greatly reduced as a result of the introduction of notes outside the mode. In Classical times, a theoretical framework was used to describe harmony as a functional harmony of tonality. This idea was used to break down the peculiarity between modes, a technique that was later described as musica ficta (Latin: “invented music”) (Kerman & Tomlinson, 2019). In the Romantic era, harmony introduced the concept of chromatic notes and chromatic chords, where such composers as Mahler and Strauss applied notes outside the scale of the elementary key of the music composition. In the new era, composers approach musical harmony from diverse perspectives. They apply noise and some instances of micorointervals to develop unique spectral sounds, and in other cases, non-musical sounds are instituted as soundscape in developing harmony in music.


The musical form is the structure of a musical configuration and is commonly used to denote a musical genre. One of the well-established vocal musical forms is the mass. In the Renaissance, mass was set in cantus firmus style, where each movement was built on the suitable Gregorian chant melody, as described by the French composer Guillaume de Machaut (Cherevko et al., 2020). In the same era, as in the 15th century, Guillaume Dufay and his colleague established the cyclic mass, a musical form where single cantus firmus was applied throughout a musical piece. Moreover, the 16th century comprised parody mass where such polyphonic works as motet or chanson were used to elaborate certain musical themes.

In the Baroque era, mass was used to describe aria, duet, or chorus, where sections of a musical form are independently composed. For example, the composition of mass was closely similar to the approaches made in the formation of cantata or oratorio, though without recitatives as applied by Bach, a German composer in B minor. Bach composed approximately 200 church cantatas (sung) or sonata (played). For example, the musical form number 140 as composed by Bach from his ‘Sleepers, Wake’, provides the best musical form (Kerman & Tomlinson, 2019). In this case, the musical form is composed of soloists and choruses, convoyed by orchestra and continuo, denoted by the minute oratorios.

In the Classical era, large forms were used especially the string quartet, orchestral, and symphony (Containing three movements). Progressively, a fourth movement was added, which is commonly known as a minuet in trio. In this era of the symphony, the composer Stamitz was regarded as the founder of the musical form and style (Kerman & Tomlinson, 2019). Moreover, between 1770 and 1827, Beethoven introduced the Choral Symphony, of what came to be known as the 9th Symphony (Kerman & Tomlinson, 2019). In the Romantic era, periods of the 20th century, Béla Bartók instituted the “arch form,” a large reverting configuration. Concurrently, there are musical forms such as those of the American John Cage, in which the form is not prearranged by the composer but left to accidental, known as indeterminate or aleatory. In the modern times, with expanded technology, the notion of form is derived from the several existing templates and includes three-dimensional impression determined by the direction in which a composer takes for creating a musical sound.

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Texture in the Renaissance polyphony is composed of autonomous phrases and dynamics as roles created by each voice. In this regard, the texture was underpinned by the actual words and characters in a music play. The major difference between the Renaissance and the middle ages was the texture of the music. Although a Medieval composer was inclined to contrast the discrete strands of music, a Renaissance composer targeted to merge them. Here, the texture was largely chordal with a strophic Ballett.

One of the several musical improvements of the Baroque era was adjoining dynamics; the opposing interchange of loud and soft dynamics. Often, the texture was patent in the score, but for the most measure the dynamics, they were majorly verbalized by agreements and concords among musicians (Kerman & Tomlinson, 2019). According to Kerman and Tomlinson (2019), the listing of orchestra became remarkably uniform leading to the composition of a tonal color that became significant in this era. Conversely, the use of crescendo and diminuendo, a concept used to describe the gradual rise and fall of dynamic volume was prominent in the Classical era. Pianoforte was used to replace such keyboard instruments as harpsichords because of their inability to produce more than one dynamic in a music concert.

Arguably, the Romantic era strengthened the Classical era through the increase of orchestras, where musical composers demanded soft and loud playing, though with steady crescendo and diminuendo dynamics. This era also contained dynamics which were designated as large orchestras, primarily due to brass and the discovery of the organ. Moreover, concert overture, a one-movement program portion for orchestra was used to increase recital at a show. For instance, Fingal’s Cave by Mendelssohn is one of the examples of texture in the Romantic age used.

Another classical example of a composer that applied the idea in Romantic era was Beethoven, who used additional dynamic contrast and more disparity in pitch. He amplified the magnitude of the orchestra, for case in point; he often supplemented a third horn and a piccolo (Kerman & Tomlinson, 2019). In modern music, the dynamics of the orchestra are augmented by the advancement of sound technology, balancing the spatial effects as well as the creation and release of tension in a song. Precisely, some composers write musical texture depicted with a rough surface or gleaming field with no form of melody.


The distinctive feature of tone color of a voice or musical device describes timbre. The peculiar timbres of Renaissance musical instruments comprised of many forming families. Most of the timbre in the music of Renaissance composers appears to have been envisioned for collective vocal-instrumental performance, although this is rarely and expressly specified (Kerman & Tomlinson, 2019). For most of the renaissance, the human voice was the chosen timbre. However, music instruments and devices without regard to voices were introduced in the late 16th century, and organs were often used. Musical timbres were used for dances, and to complement vocal music, notably with doubled voices. In the middle Renaissance of the 16th Century, composers started to examine closely the possibility of compositing music for instrumentation. Today, presentations of Renaissance vocal composition are characteristically a cappella, particularly without an instrumental auxiliary, but with a light vocal tone with diminutive vibrato (Cherevko et al., 2020). In the Baroque era, timbre had a more contrasting, yet dynamic with little echo affects.

In the Classical era, influential timbre played a key part in the rehearsal of the instrumentation and orchestration. For instance, Wagner made substantial influences on its progress during this period. For instance, Wagner’s “Sleep motif” based on the Act 3 of his opera “Die Walküre” is characterized by a downward chromatism, which that is permissible at the gamut of orchestral timbres (Kerman & Tomlinson, 2019). Debussy, who poised a timbre in music, has been accredited with inspiration to advance the role of the music element. The key alteration at this time was that wind or breeze instruments were considered to be an equivalent and significant measure of the ensemble. In the Romantic period, the use of orchestration as demonstrated by Mahler signified the increasing role of differentiated timber. Currently, timbre compositions might also be grounded on noise.


The application of rhythm in music dates back to ancient times. The notion of rhythm was considered as part of a single musical art, approved by the Romans, into medieval Europe. In this case, the feet in poetry and is equivalents as used in music (rhythm) describe antiquity of the St. Augustine of the 354-430 (Kerman & Tomlinson, 2019). In the early to late 12th century, rhythm, termed as one or more of its musical constituents, or the accent, meter, and tempo were labeled as prose or plainchant. Moreover, during this era, the church music rhythm comprised entirely of unadorned plainchant. In this case, the composers established polyphony with critical rhythmical grouping, thus instituting rhythmic metre.

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The concept of metre, though “rhythmic” by contrast with pulsation, is not complete of rhythm. The Renaissance period is often diverse with rhythmic modes combining numerous of them concurrently in diverse parts of the polyphonic configuration, thus the unrestricted eloquent speech-rhythms of the Renaissance period. In the 14th and 15th centuries, rhyme was measured using bar lines, a framework that is currently referred to, in prosody, as feet (Kerman & Tomlinson, 2019). In the late Renaissance era, rhyme was described as the virtually stressless flow of the Renaissance polyphony.

In music using synchronization, the cadenced configuration is attached from harmonic concerns. The interval arrangement adjusting the modification of harmonies is called harmonic rhythm. In the Baroque era, harmony inclines to bound rhythmic restraints and plasticity of the melodious elements regarding stress accents. During the times, rhyme was denoted as the sturdy body rhythms of the Baroque and the liberty of the Romantics era respectively (Cherevko et al., 2020). In Romantic era, musical element rhyme has been defined as the primitivistic rhythms of amalgamated and ever-shifting phase signs. Therefore, it is not by chance that the polyphonic musical rhymes of Asia display particular four-square melodic inclinations. Since rhyme differs in terms of rubato and motif, such composers as Franz Liszt and Béla Bartók used it for greater musical expression. These days, technology has complicated the use of rhythms, facilitated by uncluttered repetitive constructions and multifaceted rhythmic landscape. Moreover, serialism and the integration of polyrhythms are elemental samples of new era rhythms.


Cherevko, K., Grabovska, O., Trakalo, O., & Kalyn, R. (2020). Some aspects of Baroque music performance: An examination on concert and festival life of Lviv, Ukraine. Journal of History Culture and Art Research, 9(4), 236-246. Web.

Kerman, J., & Tomlinson, G. (2019). Listen (9th ed.). W. W. Norton & Company.

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