Chapter 13. New Styles in the Seventeenth Century

Chapter Outline

 
 

 

Italian musicians living around 1600 knew they were inventing new ways of making music. They devised new idioms, such as basso continuo, monody, and recitative; new styles, marked by unprepared dissonance, greater focus on the solo voice or instrument, and idiomatic playing; and new genres, including opera. This generation saw the most deliberate cultivation of the new in music since the Ars Nova in the early 1300s. 

In retrospect, we have come to see this outpouring of innovation as the beginning of a new period often called the Baroque. The term was employed by art historians in the nineteenth century, but only in the later twentieth century did music historians apply it to the period from about 1600 to about 1750. There are certainly elements that composers of the early seventeenth century such as Peri and Monteverdi share with early-eighteenth-century composers like Vivaldi and Bach, notably their focus on moving the affections (emotions). But the seventeenth century was also a period of its own, marked by continuous invention of new genres, styles, and methods, the gradual diffusion of Italian ideas, and, in response to them, the development of independent national idioms. Whichever view we take, the innovations around 1600 launched a new era in music, in which opera and theatrical styles played leading roles. 

This chapter will contrast the Baroque period with its predecessor, the Renaissance. Chapter 14 traces the invention and early spread of opera in Italy. Chapter 15 takes up church, chamber, and instrumental music in the first half of the seventeenth century, and later chapters chart developments after midcentury. 

Chapter Outline: 

  1. Europe in the Seventeenth Century
    1. Scientific revolution
      1. 1609: Johannes Kepler described the orbits of planets.
      2. Galileo Galilei discovered moons around Jupiter, using a newly designed telescope.
      3. Sir Francis Bacon argued for a pure approach to science (i.e., relying on direct observation rather than appeal to authorities).
      4. René Descartes developed a deductive approach to reason.
      5. Sir Isaac Newton
        1. Laws of gravitation (1660s)
        2. Combined observation with mathematics
        3. Set the framework for the scientific method
    2. Politics, religion, and war
      1. Resolution of conflicts, ca. 1600
        1. Henri IV (France) guaranteed freedom to Protestants.
        2. England and Spain ended years of warring between them.
      2. New conflicts
        1. Germany was devastated by the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) within the Holy Roman Empire.
        2. England’s civil war (1642-49) temporarily established a Presbyterian state church until the restoration of the monarchy (1660) also restored Anglican rule.
      3. Authority of the state grew in most of Europe.
    3. Colonialism
      1. Americas and Asia were colonized by the English, French, Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese.
      2. Imports to Europe included sugar and tobacco, farmed by slaves.
      3. Musical exports to the Americas
        1. Catholic music and villancicos to the Spanish colonies
        2. Metric psalmody to the English colonies
    4. Patronage
      1. Capitalism created an atmosphere conducive to music-making.
        1. Investors financed opera houses.
        2. Increased demand for sheet music, instruments, and lessons
      2. Private patronage
        1. Italian nobles and the church continued to hire the best and most innovative composers.
        2. In France, the king supported music.
      3. Public patronage through tickets and subscriptions
        1. The first of many public opera houses opened in Venice in 1637.
        2. Public concerts began in England in 1672.
  2. From Renaissance to Baroque
    1. “Baroque”
      1. Definitions: abnormal, exaggerated, in bad taste
      2. Derives from the Portuguese word for misshapen pearl
      3. Applied as a derisive term by post-Baroque critics because of the overly ornate art of the late Baroque (see HWM Figure 13.2)
      4. Now applied to music from ca. 1600-1750 without a derisive connotation
    2. Drama in the arts
      1. Famous playwrights of the era include Shakespeare, Racine, and Moliére.
      2. Poetry took on a theatrical quality (see HMW Source Reading, page 293)
      3. Sculpture (compare HWM Figures 13.3 and 13.4)
        1. Movement away from the Greek ideals that Michelangelo had emulated
        2. More drama and emotion
        3. In HWM Figure 13.5, a dramatic sculpture is situated where it will be theatrically lit by a window.
      4. Architecture achieved drama using space and size.
    3. The affections (i.e., emotional states of the soul)
      1. People believed that spirits or “humors” in the body harbored emotions.
      2. Music could bring these humors into better balance.
        1. Contrasting sections that depicted different moods helped balance the humors.
        2. Instrumental music portrayed generic emotions.
        3. Vocal music conveyed the emotions of the text, character, or dramatic situation.
    4. The second practice (see HWM Source Reading, page 298)
      1. The first practice, exemplified by Zarlino
        1. Counterpoint rules could not be violated.
        2. Dissonances had to be carefully controlled and restricted.
      2. Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643, see HWM biography, page 297, and Figure 13.7)
        1. Believed counterpoint roles could be broken for dramatic effect
        2. His madrigal Cruda Amarilli uses unprepared dissonances to express words such as “cruda” (cruel) and “ahi” (alas).
      3. Debate over Monteverdi’s use of dissonance
        1. Giovanni Maria Artusi, a student of Zarlino, criticized Cruda Amarilli.
        2. Artusi cited examples of unprepared dissonance without referring to the text.
        3. Monteverdi’s brother defended him on the grounds that in this second practice (seconda pratica) music had to serve the text.
      4. The first practice of counterpoint continued but was no longer the only method of composition.
  3. General Characteristics of Baroque Music
    1. Texture
      1. Polarity between the two essential lines, bass and melody
      2. Basso continuo (or thoroughbass) notation, specifying only melody and bass with figures to indicate chords other than root position
      3. Cello, bassoon, or viola da gamba played the bass line.
      4. Keyboard or plucked instruments (such as the theorbo, HWM Figure 13.8) played both bass and chords.
      5. Realization, the actual playing
        1. Improvised performance
        2. Written-out suggestions in modern editions, indicated by smaller notes (e.g., NAWM 64)
      6. Concertato medium (from Italian concertare, “to reach agreement”)
        1. Combining voices with instruments
        2. Genres included the concerted madrigal and the sacred concerto.
        3. Later, also applied to a contrast between a solo group and the complete group (i.e., concerto grosso)
    2. Tuning and harmony
      1. Incompatible tuning systems were thrown together by the concertato medium.
        1. Singers and violinists used just intonation.
        2. Keyboard instruments used mean-tone temperament and only sounded good in keys with few sharps or flats.
        3. Fretted instruments used equal temperament to guarantee all octaves would be in tune.
        4. Equal temperament started to become more common.
      2. Harmony
        1. Figured bass writing led to thinking in terms of chords instead of intervals.
        2. More types of dissonances were permitted.
        3. Chromaticism expressed only emotions at first, but was later used in harmonic exploration.
        4. Harmony drove counterpoint for the first time.
        5. In 1722, Rameau developed a theory of harmony, which replaced modal theory.
    3. Pieces were composed in both free and measured rhythmic style.
    4. Performance practice
      1. Continuo players fleshed out figured bass, using embellishments as well as chords.
      2. Ornamentation consisted of brief ornaments as well as extended figuration (e.g., HWM Example 13.3).
      3. The written music was only a guideline.
        1. Singers added cadenzas to arias.
        2. Arias might be added to or deleted from operas.
        3. Organists were free to change the length of pieces to suit the service.
    5. Many of the characteristics of Baroque music persisted for hundreds of years.
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