The Renaissance 1450-1600
Time Line

The word Renaissance means rebirth. During the Renaissance, the arts, science and education in general became important aspects of life. After the Protestant Reformation education was no longer completely controlled by the church and new ideas abounded. One of the most significant inventions of this time was the invention of the printing press. During this time Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, Shakespeare was writing and performing his works and Columbus travelled to the New World. The Renaissance was a time of great ideas and exploration.


Popular Music Renaissance_Billboard.JPG


Musical Evolution
An important aspect of the transition between Medieval and Renaissance music was the conflict of ars nova (new art) and ars antiqua (old art). The music of the church, Gregorian chant, was considered the old art and the new art was secular (non-religious) music that included drinking songs, hunting songs and other music for occasions outside of the church. One of the most significant inventions of this time to affect the musical world, was the invention of the printing press. Now music could be shared all over the country. The most important sacred musical forms were the motet and the mass. Secular music included the madrigal, chanson and villancico. Vocal music began to have harmonized melodies and instrumental music became popular as new instruments were developed.

Instruments of the Renaissance
Lute- the most respected musical
instrument in the Renaissance era because it was the ideal instrument
to accompany voices and other soft instruments.


 Shawm- the shawm would be played in bandsinside the palace courtyard and marketsquares; the shawm produces a
shrill pitch.

Clavichord- an early keyboard instrument producing a soft sound by means of metal blades attached to the inner ends of the keys gently striking the strings.


Recorder- the recorder would be played with other recorders of different size, the musician would use the recorder technique and tone quality to attempt to imitate a human voice.


Crumhorn- a curved horn, the earliest and
most common instrument of the reed family.



Harpsichord- a keyboard instrument inwhich the strings are plucked by leather or quill points connected with the keys.


Famous Composers

claudio_mont.jpgClaudio Monteverdi
Born May 15, 1567 in Cremona, Monteverdi was an Italian composer, singer and violinist. He is most well known for his opera L'Orpheo, based on the legend of the musician Orpheus who tried to bring Euridice back from the underworld with the power of music. Some of Monteverdi’s other works include La giovinetta piñata, Ti sponto l'ali, Amor, and Cor mio, non mori?. Claudio Monteverdi shuffled off the mortal coil on November 29, 1643 at age 76.

William_Byrd.jpgWilliam Byrd
Born in 1543, he was the leading composer of his generation and many consider him the leading English composer of any age. His high quality compositions in every genre make him the greatest composer of the Renaissance. Some of the compositions include Justorum Animae, Haven, and Have Mercy Upon Me, O God. He was interred in holy earth on July 4th, 1623 at age 80.

palestrina.jpgGiovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
Born in 1525, Palestrina was an Italian composer. He was the most famous 16th century representative of the Roman school of Musical Composition. Palestrina had a vast influence on the music of the Roman Catholic Church music. Some of his work includes Missa Papae Marcelli: Gloria, Missa Aeterna Christi Munera: Agnus Dei, and Motet: Sicut Cervus. Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was consigned to the grave on February 2, 1594 at age 69.


Cultural References
The Return of Ulysses, an opera written by the renaissance composer Monteverdi, was based on The Odyssey, a story by Homer. In this story the main character, Ulysses (Odysseus in the Greek version), meets many obsticles during his return voyage from the Trojan War . The Return of Ulysses was one of the first operas ever written and popularized opera as a musical genre. Similarly, the plot of the modern film Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? is also somewhat like the story The Odyssey. In Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? the main character, named Ulysses, escapes from prison and is trying to get back home. In addition, the soundtrack of Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? generated a new popularity for American Roots music, similar to the way Monteverdi’s work popularized opera.

Carvaggio_CD.gifMusic by Palestrina was incorporated in a CD compiled by Hugh Griffith titled
Caravaggio – Music of His Time. The CD, released in 2003, was specifically made to
depict the troubled and short life of Caravaggio, a famous renaissance painter,
through music of his time.


William Byrd was a composer for the Catholic Church.
One of his songs was titled Introitus: Cibavit Eos, a mass for four voices.
This song is included in the soundtrack of a 1996 movie titled Primal Fear.