Renaissance Music

Major Music History Periods and Representative Composers:
Medieval Period: ~500 – 1400 AD (Hildegard von Bingen, Guillaume de Machaut)
Renaissance Period: ~1400 – 1600 AD (Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Thomas Tallis, William Byrd)
Baroque Period: ~1600 – 1750 AD (Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederick Handel)
Classical Period:  ~1750 – 1825 AD (W.A. Mozart, Franz Joseph Haydn)
Romantic Period:  ~1825 – 1900 AD (Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert)
Modern/20th Century Period: ~1900 – Present (Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copeland, Phillip Glass)

When we talk about Early Music, the date range can be pretty large depending on who you ask.  Some define it as all music from the “earliest times” up to the Baroque Era, some narrow the time frame to the Middle Ages through the Baroque, and some add some or all of the Classical period to the mix.  For our purposes and study here, we’ll keep it within the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods (about 500 – 1750 AD).

The Renaissance era saw new developments like larger ranges for voices and instruments, more music specifically for instruments, and increased music printing.  The Reformation (particularly Martin Luther and the Lutheran church services) brought about new musical forms like the chorale, while the Catholic Mass became somewhat shorter and more streamlined with the Counter-Reformation.   

Dance music continued to be very popular with instruments.  As instrumental music flourished, more and more instruments came into use – flutes and recorders, cornets and trombones, tambourines and drums, strings, lutes and guitars.  Instrument families (violin, viola, cello) were developed as well. 

In vocal music, the motets from the Medieval era transitioned to Renaissance motets with a slightly different writing style:

Renaissance madrigals came about in Italy and England, usually based on a poem and written in overlapping sections, each based on a single text line: