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Thread: Outstanding innovations/distinctive features of Baroque period/style

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    Default Outstanding innovations/distinctive features of Baroque period/style

    What in your opinion were the most outstanding innovations or distinctive features of the Baroque period/style in classical music?

    I'm certainly neither a music historian nor musicologist, but from my own experience and understanding, it seems to me a couple that would make the short list are:

    • Tonality — Development of the practice of creating a musical work unified or centered around a particular tonal key.

    • Form — Development of standardized or conventional forms, often with similarly structured sub-sections, such as sonatas, concertos, suites, etc.

    I think considering this might deepen understanding of this era of music. I'd appreciate other perspectives on the issue of what particularly distinguishes the Baroque era in music.

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    Senior Member GucciManeIsTheNewWebern's Avatar
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    Counterpoint is the big one, though not omnipresent. On one hand you have Bach, the great-grandaddy of the fugue and sophisticated counterpoint, and then you have more streamlined composers like Telemann or Händel (To be fair I haven't listened to a ton of Händel so maybe there is more counterpoint in music than I know of).

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    I'm also very very far from being a music historian or musicologist, but I've always understood that the line between Renaissance music and Baroque music is more about people like Monteverdi dramatically setting aside complex contrapuntal polyphony in favor of monodies based more around one main melody with harmonic support - in other words, a new privileging of 'vertical' harmonic constructions over the Renaissance's more 'horizontal' interest in cascades of overlapping forward-moving melodies. And that this change is of course intimately tied to the development of tonality as a replacement for modal thinking, which seems like the other biggest thing that signifies Baroque-ness. Like, as far as I know, Bach's complex counterpoint was regarded, in his own time, as a very 'old-school' almost archaic feature of his music, though of course he pushed it in all kinds of new directions.

    However I think given the many relatively sudden changes to the theory and practice in music across western Europe from the Renaissance to the Baroque, I think it's also fair to think of the dividing line as not a specific stylistic shift but rather a set of many independent shifts that were all extremely accelerated by the sudden and enormous influx of wealth into Europe via colonialism. Like, there was A) new demand for radically innovative music because European colonial powers wanted to celebrate their newfound prestige and status as empires, and B) much more opportunity, because of the increased wealth of society, for more people to devote more of their time to composing, printing music, thinking about music theory, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nawdry View Post
    What in your opinion were the most outstanding innovations or distinctive features of the Baroque period/style in classical music?

    I'm certainly neither a music historian nor musicologist, but from my own experience and understanding, it seems to me a couple that would make the short list are:

    • Tonality — Development of the practice of creating a musical work unified or centered around a particular tonal key.

    • Form — Development of standardized or conventional forms, often with similarly structured sub-sections, such as sonatas, concertos, suites, etc.

    I think considering this might deepen understanding of this era of music. I'd appreciate other perspectives on the issue of what particularly distinguishes the Baroque era in music.
    A good composer to explore to answer this is Trabaci, Bk 1 rooted in pre baroque ideas, bk 2 more clearly baroque. Sergio Vartolo recorded both books separately so it’s easy to get hold of the music in performance. Monteverdi Bk5 is another good one, the end is firmly in the baroque I think, the beginning more pre baroque.

    It’s also instructive to explore the other end, to see what changed as you left the baroque. J S Bach is very interesting for this, with, for example, Clavier Ubung I containing both baroque and less baroque partitas.

    Let me know what conclusions you come to.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jan-01-2021 at 06:26.

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    Senior Member RICK RIEKERT's Avatar
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    Mandryka rightly mentions Monterverdi, and the intriguing and gradual evolution from modality to tonality is evident in his works.

    That Book 5 was a horse of a different color did not escape the notice of scholar and theorist Giovanni Artusi. Artusi was offended by the “imperfections” in Monteverdi’s part-writing, specifically in the (at that point unpublished) madrigal Cruda Amarilli. In his On the Imperfections of Modern Music Artusi writes, “The writing [of the madrigal] was not bad – though…it introduces new rules, modes, and idioms that are harsh and hardly pleasing to the ear. It could not be otherwise, for these new rules break the [established] good rules…These new rules must therefore be deformations of nature…They are far from the purpose of music, which is to delight.”

    Monteverdi answered Artusi and as we know his deformations of nature continue to delight audiences to this very day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hammeredklavier View Post
    Thanks for this quite entertaining response. Emphasizes the key role of developments in instrumentation in the transition from Renaissance to Baroque. I suspect this was facilitated by the quickening pace of overall technological development in this era.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nawdry View Post
    Thanks for this quite entertaining response. Emphasizes the key role of developments in instrumentation in the transition from Renaissance to Baroque. I suspect this was facilitated by the quickening pace of overall technological development in this era.
    Yeah, one incorrect information presented in the video is about equal temperament (0:48). Equal temperament actually didn't become widespread until atonality started to dominate European music, in the 20th century. Buxtehude and Bach preferred Werckmeister I (III) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werckm...omma_divisions

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    Quote Originally Posted by hammeredklavier View Post
    Buxtehude and Bach preferred Werckmeister
    How do you know?
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jan-03-2021 at 07:00.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nawdry View Post
    What in your opinion were the most outstanding innovations or distinctive features of the Baroque period/style in classical music?

    I'm certainly neither a music historian nor musicologist, but from my own experience and understanding, it seems to me a couple that would make the short list are:

    • Tonality — Development of the practice of creating a musical work unified or centered around a particular tonal key.

    • Form — Development of standardized or conventional forms, often with similarly structured sub-sections, such as sonatas, concertos, suites, etc.

    I think considering this might deepen understanding of this era of music. I'd appreciate other perspectives on the issue of what particularly distinguishes the Baroque era in music.
    In regard to form, there were some standardized forms in the Renaissance, most significantly the Mass, which was THE form of the era.

    Another aspect of the change from the Renaissance to the Baroque: at the end of the Renaissance and into the beginning of the Baroque the most important music was sacred and vocal...by the end of the Baroque secular music overshadowed sacred...and instrumental became arguably more important than vocal.
    Last edited by Haydn70; Jan-03-2021 at 07:30.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Haydn70 View Post
    Another aspect of the change from the Renaissance to the Baroque: at the end of the Renaissance and into the beginning of the Baroque the most important music was sacred and vocal...by the end of the Baroque secular music overshadowed sacred...and instrumental became arguably more important than vocal.
    Is this a quantities claim - that there was more instrumental music played in c17 than in c16? If so, can you show me some evidence, it doesn’t sound obviously true to me. Neither does the claim about increasing secularisation, but I could be wrong.

    Re forms, it may well be true that standard forms with structured subsections came into their own in instrumental music in the c16.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jan-03-2021 at 16:05.

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    Senior Member Haydn70's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    Is this a quantities claim - that there was more instrumental music played in c17 than in c16? If so, can you show me some evidence, it doesn’t sound obviously true to me. Neither does the claim about increasing secularisation, but I could be wrong.

    Re forms, it may well be true that standard forms with structured subsections came into their own in instrumental music in the c16.
    “Is this a quantities claim - that there was more instrumental music played in c17 than in c16?”

    Yes, it is a quantities claim. But remember I was not talking 16th century v. 17th century, I was talking Renaissance v. Baroque.

    But for starters let’s compare those two centuries.

    Two quotes from Grout’s “A History of Western Music”, long considered a classic undergraduate music history text:

    “In the latter half of the sixteenth century, the Mass, the motet, and the madrigal were coming to the end of a long period of development. By the end of the century these had reached an apex of beauty that was not to be surpassed in any succeeding age and their relative importance declined after 1600. Instrumental music, on the other hand, was steadily increasing in both quantity of output and in the skill with which composers were learning to write idiomatically and to manipulate and expand musical forms independently of a text; the growth continued without interruption into the following century.” [Steadily increasing but still behind.]

    “Instrumental music in the first half of the seventeenth century was gradually becoming the equal, both quantity and content, of vocal music.”

    And remember in the late 17th century we see the dramatic rise of keyboard music, specifically organ music, specifically German organ music by composers such as Schütz (d. 1672), Pachelbel (d. 1706) and Buxtehude (d. 1707). In Italy we see the dramatic rise of ensemble music, the trio sonata and the concerto in particular. The most important composer was Corelli and all of his works--four sets of trio sonatas, one set of solo sonatas, and this crowning achievement, the Opus 6 Concerti Grossi—were all composed in the period c. 1680-1700.

    I think all of this points to the fact that more instrumental music was played in 17th century than in 16th. At the very least by 1700 instrumental music was on equal footing with vocal which was definitely not the case in the 16th century.

    And if we go back to my original comparison, Renaissance v. Baroque, we then can include the instrumental works of Vivaldi, Handel, Bach, Telemann, etc…so no contest there.

    Regarding sacred v. secular, my first response was going to be that instrumental music is, by its nature, secular in that there is no text (specifically sacred in the case of our discussion) to be transmitted. So, it follows: increasing amount of instrumental music = increasing amount of secular music. (And I know there are instrumental pieces that can be considered sacred such as Biber’s Rosary Sonatas but they are very few in number.)

    However I got to thinking that when you wrote “increasing secularization” you might have been thinking about not whether the music was instrumental or vocal but where a person in 1680 would HEAR any music, i.e., in a church v. anyplace else.

    For example, the organ music I discussed above would only be heard by the mass of people in churches. So we have the question of whether you want to consider the performance venue a factor in defining sacred v. secular.

    For myself in differentiating between the two I do not consider whether a piece was played in a church or a non-religious space. Tons of organ music was played in churches…but that, for me, does not make it sacred music.

    As such, I will stick by my original claims.
    Last edited by Haydn70; Jan-03-2021 at 19:42.

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    Senior Member hammeredklavier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    How do you know?
    https://stereosociety.com/wp-content...en.pdf#page=20
    "Among the primary reasons for Bach’s extended stay in Lübeck may have been the organ tuning Buxtehude used, which this author believes was Werckmeister III tuning. Werckmeister scholar Ursula Hermann discovered that as a student in Lüneburg, J.S. Bach once sang a composition written by Andreas Werckmeister entitled Der Mensch vom Weibe geboren. Bach’s idea of an extended stay in Lübeck after first achieving full-time employment was probably hatched at this time."

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    Quote Originally Posted by hammeredklavier View Post
    https://stereosociety.com/wp-content...en.pdf#page=20
    "Among the primary reasons for Bach’s extended stay in Lübeck may have been the organ tuning Buxtehude used, which this author believes was Werckmeister III tuning. Werckmeister scholar Ursula Hermann discovered that as a student in Lüneburg, J.S. Bach once sang a composition written by Andreas Werckmeister entitled Der Mensch vom Weibe geboren. Bach’s idea of an extended stay in Lübeck after first achieving full-time employment was probably hatched at this time."
    Is there any argument in there that the Luneburg organ was Werkmeister III, nor that Bach preferred it to other tunings? I’ll have a look later on about the tunings in the organs which Bach had built.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jan-04-2021 at 11:23.

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    I think Corelli pretty much developing common practice tonality and harmony has to be a big deal. Of course Bach and Handel perfected this.

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