Music and Musicians in the Renaissance Essay examples

Music and Musicians in the Renaissance Essay examples

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Music and Musicians in the Renaissance


If music be the food of love, play on! ~ Orsino, Twelfth Night

In the Elizabethan Era (1558-1603) and the Jacobean Era (1603-1625), there was a fondness for spectacle and pageantry. At court, trumpets and drums resounded to announce mealtimes; in town, these instruments were used by theatre troupes to herald upcoming performances (Renaissance & Baroque Society of Pittsburgh, 2003, and Folkerth, 2002). Music, then, is applied boldly and lavishly in everyday life and in drama, an imitation of life.

Musical Instruments

The major classes of musical instruments used in the High and Late Renaissance include plucked strings, bowed strings, brass, double reeds, other winds, keyboards, and percussions (McGee, 1985). Lutes, drums, and trumpets were often used, but the instruments that were especially popular during the Renaissance include the bass viol, treble viol, viola, violin, tenor sackbut, cornetto, bass sackbut, curtal, tenor shawm, bass recorder, and harpsichord (McGee, 1985).

Instrumental Music

From the Early Renaissance to the High Renaissance, there was a movement from vocal music to a combination of vocal and instrumental music (Brown, 1976). There are seven categories of instrumental music: 1) vocal music played by instruments, 2) settings of pre-existing melodies, 3) variation sets, 4) ricercars, fantasias, and canzonas, 5) preludes, preambles, and toccatas for solo instruments, 6) dance music, and 7) songs composed specifically for lute and solo voice (Brown, 1976). Italy dominated the stage for instrumental music at this time, and it was not until the last decades of the sixteenth century that English instrumental music became popular (Brow...


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...cobean periods.


Works Cited



Brown, Howard M. Music in the Renaissance. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1976.

Folkerth, Wes. The Sound of Shakespeare. London: Routledge, 2002.

McGee, Timothy J. Medieval and Renaissance Music: A Performer’s Guide. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985.

Novak, Elaine Adams. Staging Shakespearean Theatre. Cincinnati, Ohio: Betterway Books, 2000.

Renaissance & Baroque Society of Pittsburgh. “Shakespeare’s Top 40”. Available: http://www.rbsp.org/current_season/shakespeare.php, March 2003.

Shirley, Frances Ann. Shakespeare’s Use of Off-Stage Sounds. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1963.

University of Victoria. “Elizabethan Court Musicians”. Available: http://web.uvic.ca/shakespeare/Library/SLTnoframes/literature/courtmusicians.html, date unavailable. Accessed : March 4, 2003.

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