How to Listen to and Appreciate
Classical Music

  Structures and Forms
  Orchestra Instruments
  The Medieval Period
  The Renaissance Period
  The Baroque Period
  The Classical Period
  The Romantic Period
  The 20th Century and Beyond

The Renaissance Period

The Renaissance period in Western classical music lasted from around 1400 to 1600.

Composers began to be more emotionally expressive, and purely instrumental music became more popular towards the end of the Renaissance period. When the printing press was perfected around 1450, it became relatively inexpensive to distribute music throughout Europe, which enabled a rapid spread of musical thoughts and ideas.

During this period many composers continued to write Masses and motets, but the church's influence over music was in decline. This led to the rise in popularity of madrigals. A Mass ("Missa" in Latin) is a sacred musical work which sets the church's liturgy to music (in Catholic and Anglican churches). A motet is a religious polyphonic song (i.e. it has several voices singing different parts) based on sacred Latin texts, usually without any instruments. A madrigal is essentially a non-religious motet, sung in a language other than Latin.

Madrigals were often based on poetry, so the composers tried to match the excellence of the poetry in their music, and poets in turn were inspired to write poetry specifically for madrigals. Composers experimented with new ways of expressing ideas musically in their madrigals, such as using "word-painting." This involved imitating in music what the lyrics said in words, such as making bird sounds when the song spoke of birds, or using a particular key or scale to give the impression of sadness, and so on.


These are some of the composers of this period, and a taste of their music. The links will take you to the Wikipedia pages for the composers and their works.

Modification History

  • June 24, 2014 - New website.

Dave Root

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