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    Essay On The Baroque Art Period

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    Throughout history all cultures have been influenced by music. Since the Baroque period music has evolved and changed to meet the needs of the composers, listeners and of the culture as well. Ever since the monolithic chant of the previous millennia the western musical tradition been a mirror to the turmoil and the triumph in the European society. Influenced by religion, nationalism, geography, living conditions, imperialism, pragmatics, social mores, traditions, etc? ‘… western music has evolved into a mighty being that still will endure for centuries. Before the Baroque era in music there were many forms of western music.

    Most of this music was monophonic, sung in chant used mostly for religious purposes. During the previous millennia most music was sung in chant form with very little accompaniment, save a harp or a violin. In these times music was a simple art, sung by the people to praise the Lord. Eventually polyphonic music developed, first starting as monophonic chant sung in thirds and fifths, and later contrapuntal music was created. During this time the music notation system was standardized, originally a modified Greek system; music notation evolved into the notation that is used today.

    Having the use of music notation set the foundation for Baroque music and for all music after that. In the late sixteenth century and early seventeenth century the Baroque style of music started in Italy. Italy, where the renaissance started, was able to create a new type of music rich in feeling, but less intricate than much of the previous renaissance music that was centered towards the north (France and the area now occupied by the Netherlands). New ideas, like interplay between the various instruments in an orchestra, became prevalent, unlike the monophonic music of previous years.

    As new instruments were incorporated into orchestras and compositions became increasingly more instrumental interplay had an increasing new role in the new baroque music. Claudio Monteverdi was a pioneer in the field of music at this time. His new operas contained many instances on interplay and sudden contrasts in feeling. As the seventeenth century progressed base parts in music became increasingly more important as the new basso continuo, idea formed. In the basso continuo soprano and alto voices in the music would be constructed on a platform of bass chords that gave meaning and structure to the music.

    During the Baroque period new forms of presenting music were invented. The cantata and oratorio were created as new forms of vocal pieces. Both of these forms had repeating phrases that structured the pieces with minimal orchestral accompaniment. New forms of music were written in continuous contrapuntal form with no distinguishable movements, the most famous of which was the fantasia. Other forms such as the sonata had many homophonic and contrapuntal movements that contrasted witheach other. There were many pieces that were a theme and variations called a passacaglia.

    The concerto was a solo instrument that played against an orchestra that differed on many musical, rhythmical and dynamic levels. The concerto was one of the most important forms of music that came out of the Baroque period. During the Baroque period there were many new influential composers. These composers included the Italian composers Alessandro Scarlatti, Arcangelo Corelli Domenico Scarlatti, and Antonio Vivaldi; the Italian-Frenchman Jean Baptiste Lully; the English composers Henry Purcell; and the French composer Jean Philippe Rameau.

    Towards the end of the century, music became more fluid and “romanticized”. The ideas of contrasting movements gave way to pieces that more or less the same general musicality and character all the way through. Towards the end of the Baroque period, the great composer J. S. Bach shined and wrote some of the best Baroque pieces ever written, still Baroque in style, but giving way to the new classical period. During the mid eighteenth century there was a reaction to the Baroque style of music. People were tired of the ridged counterpoint that governed the baroque music.

    Instead new composers chose to compose a new form of music that was happy and jubilant to mirror the times of great exploration and hope for European society. New music, like the rococo written by the French composer Fran? Ҥois Couperin showed the new jubilance in music. This new music was broken into several contrasting movements with different conversations and phrase. Music became more like a happy dance during this period. During the classical period tonality was brought to new heights. New complex harmonic textures were used that facilitated the use of new tones and chords within a key.

    Like in the Baroque era, the concerto and sonata were used as art forms. In the Classical period the symphony and string quartet were added as new acceptable art forms. Most of these forms included three or four contrasting movements that ended in a finale that brought closure to the work, ending in the chord of the key the work was written in. As new instruments were developed, new arrangements were written to incorporate these instruments in new music. New compositions only for wind instruments were written at this time, a phenomena almost unheard of in previous times.

    Towards the end of the classical period the focus of new composing centered on the Viennese classical school. Out of this new school of composing came such great composers as Franz Joseph Hayden and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. During this time opera lost a lot of its musical intensity and became a series of arias that showed off the singing talent of individual soloists, as opposed of that of the whole group. This tradition would later change with the advent of the Romantic period. The Romantic period started in Europe as a reaction to the jubilant happiness of the classical era.

    During the nineteenth century there was a lot of tension in Europe as the forces of Nationalism and Militarism gripped Europe. There had been changes in Europe since the advent of Classicism. There were many mighty revolutions like the one that started in France in 1789 and spread. These revolutions made for the age of liberalism vs. conservatism. These events put a new fire into the nineteenth century and made for a new age. One of the major musical forms of the romantic period was the Opera. German composers such as Wagner wrote great operas with a growing emphasis on fluid orchestral parts.

    New romantic operas were known to last over five hours with long, fluid and powerful lines. Many operas written by German composers and most of the operas written by Wagner instilled German pride and increased an ever growing feeling of nationalism and anti-Semitism. In France opera became more sentimental and simplistic. As in Germany the focus of the opera began to shift towards the choral and to the orchestra. Often the orchestras had large ensembles to show the grandeur of the age. Bizet and Faure were two of the more famous French opera composers.

    In Italy the operas that were written were more marcatto and joyful. Composers such as Rossini used much rhythmic energy, using various staccato phrases to achieve a more buoyant opera. Later towards the end of the nineteenth century the composer Verdi made more of an orchestral significance and wrote opera that was more fluid. During the nineteenth century the symphony form changed a lot, teeter-tottering between musical styles. Many people were thinking should music have a theme? This was debated throughout the century.

    As the century progressed, the symphony became the predominant form of musical expression. The beginning of the century started out with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 symphony. This great feat of romanticism by many is considered one of the century’s best works. Like many composers of that time, his fluid and romantic tones amazed listeners. Smetana in Mein Vaterland expressed the nationalism in Bohemia. He was one of the first great Czeck (Bohemian) composers. In Russia, Moldovski, Rimkey-Korsekov (Arabian Knights) and others made for a great resurgence of nationalistic pride in Mother Russia.

    Great composers like Paganini, Brahms, Schubert, Sibelius and Camille Saint-Saens wrote great virtuosi music unheard until that the time. Because of the expanding world of music, the rules changed and fragmentation started as new great music changed the globe. The idea that music was not just a song with themes, but more like a poem, was given by Gustav Mahler who wrote whole boisterous symphonies showing the greatness and brevity of the human soul, all with no rhyme or reason to it. Towards the end of the century composers such as Debussy used traditional forms plus the episodic use of changes in tempi and changes in thematic character.

    The beginning of this century was characterized by the amazing brilliance of Stravinski in the Firebird. in the Twentith century after World War I, a new feeling of loss of identity was felt. Older composers like Prokliev and Stravinsky showed great change, switching from a neo-classical style bringing chaos into their music after the war. Newer composers like the German Gustav Holst showed great chaos in their music by using strong, fragmented rhythms and dissident harmonies.

    Shostocovich brought the disunity of music to new heights, while commenting musically on his country’s political and economic situation during and after World War II. After the war, new ideas like minimalism lead by Glass and Reich and electronic music lead by Stockhausen, have pervaded into classical music, pushing the classical world to new boundaries. In conclusion, western classical music has evolved since its beginnings in the previous millennia. This music has changed from dainty harmonies to raucous twelve-tone melodies. The music of the Western world has been influenced by and has changed the world as we know it.

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