Music history of the early Renaissance

The French composer and bishop Philippe de Vitry, in his treatise “Ars nova”, improved the musical notation: it mainly concerned the duration of the notes and the notation of the rhythm. Sight-reading music and singing from voices became easier, which contributed to the development of new genres: ballads, madrigal, but above all motet. Motet is a complex composition of at least three voices (later four became the norm), each of which sings different texts to different melodies and even often in different languages. There is an opinion that the popularity of these genres is paradoxically connected with the plague pandemic: the courtyards became isolated, stopped inviting wandering minstrels and site vagants and site entertained themselves with such exquisite songs for secular texts. (One of these scenes is captured, website for example, in Pushkin’s Little Tragedies.)

Thanks to Guillaume Dufay, the most influential 15th century composer and founder of the Dutch school, Renaissance music is based on a combination of not only independent but also similar melodies. In the main techniques of musical writing of this time – canon and imitation – the same melody sounds in different voices with a certain time lag; everything is built around a central voice

– a predetermined melody cantus firmus. This polyphonic writing technique is mainly used in the main European genre of this time – the Mass.

This is how the composer’s science develops – counterpoint (from Latin punctum contra punctum – “point against point”), the art of combining two or more melodic lines in accordance with the strict rules of euphony (consonance) and dissonance (dissonance).

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