The characteristics of Baroque music

Published by Baroque Singers on

The new interest in music’s remarkable and the rhetorical possibilities gave rise to a lot of new sound ideas during the Baroque period. Contrast as an element Contrast is an essential ingredient from the drama of a special composition.

The gaps between loud and soft, solo and ensemble, different instruments and timbres play an essential part in many Baroque compositions.

The most important parts in Baroque compositions

Composers started to be more precise about the instrumentation, frequently specifying the instruments on which the play should be played instead of allowing the actor to choose.

Instruments like the trumpet and violin also grew in popularity. Monody and the advent of the basso continuo In previous musical epochs, a slice of music tended to consist of a melody, possibly with improvised accompaniment, or melodies played concurrently. 

Not until the Baroque period did the concept of melody, and harmony, really start to be articulated. As part of the attempt to mimic music, composers started focusing less on the complex polyphony that dominated the fifteenth and sixteenth hundreds of years and much more on a single voice with an accompaniment, or monody.

If music was a form of rhetoric, as the writings of the The Greeks and Romans suggest, a strong orator is essential, and that better for the job than the usual vocal soloist? 

The new fusion between the expression of atmosphere and the solo singer come through loud and clear from Monteverdi’s foreword to the Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda from his Eighth Book of Madrigals, where he writes:” it’s seemed to me that the chief passions or affections of our minds are 3 in number, namely anger, equanimity and humility. 

The practice of basso continuo

The best philosophers concur, and the very nature of the voice, with its middle, low and high ranges, would indicate as much. The earliest operas are a superb illustration of the new aesthetic. With the focus on a single melody and bass line came the custom of basso continuo, a technique of musical notation where the melody and bass line are written and the harmonic filler. As the musician Agostino Agazzari explained in 1607:

“as the true style of expressing the words has at last been found, namely, by replicating their sense in the best way possible, which succeeds best with a single voice, as with the contemporary tunes by various able men, as is the constant practice at Rome in concerted music, I say that it isn’t essential to make a score&hellip, A Bass, with its signs to the harmonies, is sufficient.But if some one were to tell me, for playing the previous works, filled with fugue and counterpoint, a Bass isn’t sufficient, my answer is that Work of this type is no longer in use”

Since basso continuo, or exhaustive bass, remained standard practice till the end of the Baroque period.

Categories: music