The term “Renaissance” describes a transformation beginning in the fourteenth century and extending into the seventeenth century. Renaissance thinkers reached back to the golden age of Classical Antiquity hoping to effect a cultural rebirth from the past centuries that they considered the ‘Dark Age.’ This course will explore music and its relationship to Renaissance thought, exploration, and technological innovation that has so profoundly shaped the Western world.
Classes are approximately 1.5hrs long and are offered on Wednesdays at 3:30 pm or 7:30 pm.
We extend our sincere thanks to Good Barrister for their generous support of EMV’s Online School.
Session 1 “There Appears to Be a New Art…”
This class will review the stylistic characteristics of the music of the Middle Ages and examine how they transformed during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Although efforts to seek musical inspiration from Ancient Greece were not undertaken until the late sixteenth century, Western music did undergo significant change in the fifteenth century with the introduction of what we might call major chords. The new sonorities offered a new sonic palette and increased contrapuntal possibility, which in turn caused a shift in emphasis from music as a science of proportion and a reflection of natural order to music as expressive communication full of “subtlety, ingenuity, and incomprehensible sweetness”.
Session 2 Learning to Be a Musician
Without conservatories, universities, or even a standardized public education system, how did musicians learn their trade? What might a music classroom have looked or sounded like? Could Renaissance musicians really improvise complex polyphony or compose it “in their minds” without much help from pen and paper? This class explores music education, the professionalization of music, how music came to be associated with virtue, and how professional composers, singers, and instrumentalists could elevate their social status by displaying their virtuosity.
Session 3 Representation and Remembrance
Music-making is the art of shaping time. Profoundly ephemeral and only truly existing in the moment of performance, yet music is a powerful memory aid. This class will delve into how the patrons of Renaissance music used music to remind the world of their power, prestige, and noble character, how Renaissance musicians used musical structure to memorialize their colleagues and predecessors and situate themselves within musical history by ingeniously imitating and reimagining the work of others, and how elementary school children used song to memorize their lessons and learn to read.
Session 4 Printing, Authorship, and Intellectual Property
Western music history is accustomed to telling the stories of great composers and their works. However, in the Renaissance, the notion that a composition might belong to its composer was by no means widely accepted. This class with examine musical ownership, authorship, and piracy; how musical texts were shared; and how the printing press revolutionized the music market and the renown of the savviest composers.
Session 5 Empire, Exploration, and Exploitation
The Renaissance has also been called the age of exploration or exploitation. This class will take a hard look at how music contributed to efforts to colonize and proselytize members of other cultures in the Americas and in China during the sixteenth century, considering music in Spanish missions and the work of Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci in China.
Session 6 Magic, Musical Meaning, and Religious Reform
What is music and what gives it such power over human beings? This final class explores music’s supposed mysterious ability to impact forces in nature, its consequent medicinal qualities, and its relationship to melancholia. It will also consider how Renaissance beliefs about music’s power played out in the Protestant and Catholic reformations of the sixteenth century, when polarizing opinions relegated music to the sphere of secular entertainment, demanded that it be simple and subservient to the text, or claimed it as a powerful spiritual tool.
Host & Course Designer: Christina Hutten
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Buy the full course for $90.