History of Classical Music

Sacred Music

(Renaissance 1)
The sacred music of the Renaissance was a natural outgrowth of plainsong. The simple two-line polyphony of the late Middle Ages was expanded to use up to four different vocal parts of equal importance. This new vocal form was the motet. Contrary to the Middle Ages ideal, the music was more important than the words. Josquin des Prez and Giovanni Palestrina were the most famous Renaissance composers of motets.

Music began to be very ornamented at this time. Mass settings and motets had become more and more ambitious and eleaborate as time wore on. More voices were used and movements became longer and cleverer. Composers were more interested in showing off than with putting forward any significant religious message. Church leaders began to worry that people could not understand the important lyrics and at the Council of Trent, ordered that sacred music be used to underline the text. This marked the beginning of chordally structured music.

Overview of Renaissance Next (Secular Music)

Sample Works:

MIDI Example Gloria by Tomas Luis de Victoria


Gloria from Missa O Magnum Misterium, MIDI sequence by Gustavo Javier Czobel
    from Classical MIDI Connection

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