7: The Baroque era, part 1 (poetry, drama and secularism, 1600-1650)

The term baroque describes an era in which art, architecture and music adopted a grand, ornate style during the years 1600 to 1750. It is best understood by its architecture, which adorned the balanced simplicity of renaissance design with exquisite detail. The opulent Hall of Mirrors (17thC) at the Palace of Versailles and Bernini’s Ecstasy […]

The Renaissance (1400-1600): an overview

This post is a brief introduction to the first major era of European music: the renaissance. If you would like something more substantial, please see my three posts on the era: an introduction (1400-1500), Elizabethan England (Tallis and Byrd, 1500-1600), and the Roman School (Palestrina and Allegri, 1550-1640). *** Dates: 1400-1600 Quick features: largely a […]

6: The Renaissance, part 3 (Palestrina and Allegri, 1550-1640)

*** If you would prefer a brief overview of the renaissance, it can be found here. *** Last post I discussed the attempts of renaissance composers to grapple with the central challenge of composition: balancing the dictates of melody (hence time) with the need to combine voices harmoniously. You may recall the development of imitation: […]

5: The Renaissance, part 2 (Byrd and Tallis, 1500-1600)

*** If you would prefer a brief overview of the renaissance it can be found here. *** Last post I introduced a new era, the renaissance, by outlining the humble origin of triadic harmony in the 15th-century by Englishman John Dunstable. Through the triad, all subsequent music can be traced: it would spread from Dunstable […]

4: The Renaissance, part 1 (harmony evolves, 1400-1500)

*** If you would prefer a brief overview of the renaissance, it can be found here. *** Like listening whilst you read? You can find today’s listening at the bottom of the page. *** The renaissance (meaning rebirth), was a period of European history spanning 1400-1600, perhaps best known for its flourishing secular life and […]

3: A double history of harmony (Pythagoras and late medieval music c.1150-1250)

Harmony, Harmonia, harmonious, harmonic, harmonica, harmonium, harmonise – what is harmony, and why do we care? Harmony is often mischaracterised as ‘a harmony’ to mean a melody played over the top of a main melody (especially in popular music), but harmony and melody are quite separate things: melody is the lateral relationship between pitches (i.e. […]

Trafalgar Square’s new sculpture: ‘The End’ of wilful ugliness?

The new sculpture atop Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth was revealed last week to almost universal bemusement. Heather Phillipson’s The End (pictured below) was delayed for months due to a virus you may have heard about. In hindsight, perhaps it was best that the public’s patience wasn’t tested further during the early hysteria of Covid’s onset. […]