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Renaissance means rebirth. They were interested in Ancient Greece and Rome. There were many voyages of discovery, and scientific advances.
The composers marked with asterisks are the most important to know.
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 are Protestant hymns.
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).
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:
Lots of polychoral (more than one choir) 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:
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.
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.
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.