Renaissance means rebirth. They were interested in Ancient Greece and Rome. There were many voyages of discovery, and scientific advances.

Composers of the Period

Composer Nationality Composer Nationality
Josquin Netherlands Downland* English
Lassus Netherlands Welkes English
Tallis* English Gibbons English
Byrd* English Palestrina* Italy
Morley* English G. Gabriela* Italy
Bull English Monterverde* Italy

The composers marked with asterisks are the most important to know.

Church Music

The style of renaissance church music is described as choral polyphony (polyphonic, counterpoint, contrapuntal), meaning more than one part. Homophonic means moving in chords. Monophonic means one melody line. Choral polyphony was intended to be sung a cappella (without instruments). The main forms were the mass and the motet. They had four parts, based on modes, but composers gradually added more accidentals.

One of the most noticeable differences between Medieval and Renaissance styles, is that of musical texture. Whereas a Medieval composer tended to contrast the separate strands of his music, a Renaissance composer aimed to blend them together. Instead of building up the texture layer by layer, he worked gradually through the piece, attending to all parts simultaneously. The key device used to weave this kind of texture is called imitation. Composers were becoming more interested and aware of harmony (how notes fit against each other).

German Chorales

German Chorales are Protestant hymns.

Secular Music

This was music independent of churches (i.e. none religious). The main type was the song, lied (German), frottola (Italian), chanson (French), madrigal (Italian) and villancico (Spanish).

Elizabethan Madrigals

In 1588 a collection of Italian Madrigals with English words was published in England, and it sparked off an interest in English Madrigal writing. They were performed in rich people's homes. There are three kinds of madrigal:

  1. The Madrigal Proper - This kind was 'through-composed' (The music is different all the time.) There is a lot of word-painting music that illustrates words. E.g. Thomas Weelkes 'As Vesta was from Latmos Hill descending.
  2. The Ballett - It was sometimes danced as well as sung. The texture is mainly chordal. Whereas a madrigal proper is through-composed, a ballett is strophic (two or more verses set to the same music. The most noticeable feature of a ballett is the 'fa-la-la' refrain.
  3. The Ayre - An Ayre could be performed in a variety of ways: By solo voice with lute accompaniment; by a solo voice with other accompaniment (e.g. viols); all the parts sung by voices (with or without instruments).

16th Century Venice

Lots of polychoral (more than one choir) music.

Instrumental Music

Until the beginning of the 16th Century, instruments were considered to be less important than voices. They were used for dances, and to accompany vocal music - but here they only doubled the voices. During the 16th Century, however, composers took greater interest in writing music for instrument. A lot of these instruments were intended for outside. Some examples:

  • Lute
  • Viol
  • Crumhorn
  • Rackett
  • Sackbut (Early trombone)
  • Trumpet (Valveless)

English Consorts

A consort is a group of instruments playing together. A whole consort consist of instruments all from the same family, but a broken consort has instruments from more than one family.

Variations and the Ground Bass

A ground is a tune repeated over and over in the bass, with musical material changing above. Variations are alterations in the tune. You can of course do variations on the bass.

Elizabethan Keyboard Music

A popular instrument was the virginal, and a famous collection was the 'Fitzwilliam Virginal Book', which contained over 300 pieces for the virginal. A lot of the music was programmatic (It tells a story, is descriptive), e.g. 'The King's Hunt', by John Bull.

The Main Characteristics of Renaissance Music

  1. Music still based on modes, but gradually more accidentals creep in.
  2. Richer texture in four or more parts. Bass part is added below the tenor.
  3. Blending rather than contrasting strands in the musical texture.
  4. Harmony. Greater concern with the flow and progression of chords.
  5. Church music. Some pieces were intended for 'a cappella' performance. Mainly contrapuntal. Lots of imitation. Some church music was accompanied by instruments - for example polychoral pieces in antiphonal style (Antiphonal - Questions and Answers, Stereo Effect).
  6. Secular music (none-religious music. Sacred music is to do with the church) There was lots of vocal pieces and dances, and lots of instrumental pieces (However a lot of the instrumentals were in a vocal style, but sonic were suited to instruments. Vocal music was by far the more important.)
  7. The characteristic timbres of Renaissance musical instruments - many forming families.

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Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries had its humble beginnings as an idea of a few artisans and craftsmen who enjoy performing with live steel fighting. As well as a patchwork quilt tent canvas. Most had prior military experience hence the name.


Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries.


Vendertainers that brought many things to a show and are know for helping out where ever they can.

As well as being a place where the older hand made items could be found made by them and enjoyed by all.

We expanded over the years to become well known at what we do. Now we represent over 100 artisans and craftsman that are well known in their venues and some just starting out. Some of their works have been premiered in TV, stage and movies on a regular basis.

Specializing in Medieval, Goth , Stage Film, BDFSM and Practitioner.

Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries a Dept of, Ask For IT was started by artists and former military veterans, and sword fighters, representing over 100 artisans, one who made his living traveling from fair to festival vending medieval wares. The majority of his customers are re-enactors, SCAdians and the like, looking to build their kit with period clothing, feast gear, adornments, etc.

Likewise, it is typical for these history-lovers to peruse the tent (aka mobile store front) and, upon finding something that pleases the eye, ask "Is this period?"

A deceitful query!! This is not a yes or no question. One must have a damn good understanding of European history (at least) from the fall of Rome to the mid-1600's to properly answer. Taking into account, also, the culture in which the querent is dressed is vitally important. You see, though it may be well within medieval period, it would be strange to see a Viking wearing a Caftan...or is it?

After a festival's time of answering weighty questions such as these, I'd sleep like a log! Only a mad man could possibly remember the place and time for each piece of kitchen ware, weaponry, cloth, and chain within a span of 1,000 years!! Surely there must be an easier way, a place where he could post all this knowledge...

Traveling Within The World is meant to be such a place. A place for all of these artists to keep in touch and directly interact with their fellow geeks and re-enactment hobbyists, their clientele.

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