How Vocal and Choral Music Came About in the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Classical Period
Let’s drive deeper into what is choral music and understand its importance.
Investment in harmony had also existed among certain composers in the Renaissance, notably Carlo Gesualdo; However, the use of harmony directed towards tonality, rather than modality, marks the shift from the Renaissance into the Baroque period. This led to the idea that chords, rather than notes, could provide a sense of closure—one of the fundamental ideas that became known as tonality. By incorporating these new aspects of composition, Claudio Monteverdi furthered the transition from the Renaissance style of music to that of the Baroque period. He developed two individual styles of composition – the heritage of Renaissance polyphony (prima pratica) and the new basso continuo technique of the Baroque (seconda pratica). With the writing of the operas L’Orfeo and L’incoronazione di Poppea among others, Monteverdi brought considerable attention to the new genre of opera.
Some of the instruments that could accompany choral music include orchestra but piano, flute or guitar. Since choral music meets a variety of needs, its performance can occur in many locations like the church, school halls, and opera houses. In some instances, choral music could involve mass choirs meant for special reasons as celebrations or entertainment. During the composition of the choral music, there are equally important voices that require consideration. These voices include soprano, alto, tenor and bass (Forney 45). Soprano refers to the highest vocal range, which is common among female singers though some boys could exhibit it. Alto is the second highest vocal range, which is the highest male voice while for females it is known as contralto. This voice is placed just below soprano, but above tenor.
Some of the most influential and beloved compositions are regularly performed in concert halls, and a wealth of recordings make the baroque available on demand. Many of the musical genres still in use today, like the oratorio, concerto and opera, originated in the period. Twentieth century composers such as Ralph Vaughn Williams, Igor Stravinsky and Benjamin Britten paid homage to the baroque in their works. Its influence can even be heard outside the realm of art music: the free movement between solo and group in jazz is sometimes compared to baroque music, and snippets of Bach and Vivaldi frequently appear in the solos of heavy metal guitarists. And the spirit of the baroque—an unwavering belief in the power of music to touch people’s lives—changed music history forever.
Apel, Willi. Harvard dictionary of music. 2d ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1969. Print.
Forney, Kristine, and Joseph Machlis. The enjoyment of music: an introduction to perceptive listening. 10th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007. Print.
Juslin, Patrik N., and John A. Sloboda. Music and emotion: theory and research. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print.