Vocal Music History

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Vocal Music History
Singing Through Time
The human voice is really the
foundation of all music; and whatever
the development of the musical art,
however bold the composer's
combinations, however brilliant the
virtuoso's execution, in the end they
must always return to the standard set
by vocal music.
---Richard Wagner
Medieval Period (500-1450)
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Vocal music most important
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Simple in nature
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First written music →
church music
Latin
Offices → music sung
at a certain time of day
Plainchant (or chant or
plainsong)
No rhythm or tempo
noted
♫ chant Pater Noster
Chant – Pater Noster
Word Wall
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Syllabic → one note per syllable
Neumatic → two or three notes (or neumes)
per syllable
Melismatic → four or more notes per syllable
Organum → melody with harmony (4th or 5th)
Polyphony → two or more vocal parts, equal
importance
Guido d’Arezzo
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Monk
Guidonian Hand
device used to assist singers in learning to
sight sing
each joint or part of the hand represented a
different note
precursor to solfege
♫ Guido’s hand
Secular (Pop) Songs
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usually about love and
wine
Unaccompanied, triple
meter, no harmony, not
Latin
Troubadors (started
south)
Trouveres (started
north)
Renaissance Period (1450-1600)
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Similar to medieval music but more evolved
Secular music flourished because of patrons of
the nobility
Entertainment for amateurs rather than concert
music (ambience!)
Composed for few participants rather than
huge choirs/choruses
Funny Story:
Josquin des Prez composer for the
French king, got tired of waiting for
the raise he had been rpomised so he
wrote a motet called “ Remember
thy word unto thy servant”. When
the king finally paid him, he wrote
another one called “Lord thou hast
dealt graciously with thy servant”.
Musical Types
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Mass → music composed for specific parts of
the mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus,
Benedictus, Agnus Dei)
Motet → piece of music in several parts with
words (church)
Madrigal → piece of music two to eight
voices, usually unaccompanied (secular)
♫ Ave Maria, T.L. Vittoria
Ave Maria, T.L. Vittoria
Meanwhile...
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Church music not led by Catholics but by
Protestants as well (Thank-you Henry VIII!)
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Chorale - hymn meant to be sung by the
congregation; monophonic then progressed to
four part harmony
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♫ Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, J.S. Bach
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, J.S. Bach
Baroque Period (1600-1750)
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Instrumental music became as important as
vocal
Opera, usually based on Greek
mythology/tragedy
Vocal chamber music → solo recitals, small
ensembles
Elaborate, showy music...very decorated
Monteverdi wrote the first opera: Orfeo (1607)
Funny Story:
Theorist Giovanni Artusi
published a paper claiming that
the “new composers” were
breaking all the rules and
ignoring “centuries of noble
tradition”...sound familiar?
Oratorio
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Like opera but without movement, sets, and
costumes
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Usually a biblical setting
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Frequent word painting
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♫ Handel → Messiah
Messiah
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Hallelujah
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All We Like Sheep
Classical Period (1750-1810)
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Melodies much less decorated, concentrating
on beauty of tone
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More chorus stuff in operas
Romantic Period (1810-1910)
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Art song really developed
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Church music not really the focus anymore
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Choral music becomes more important →
nationalism, folk music, some symphonies
♫ Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
Art Songs
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Very poetic → usually about some sort of
pretty thing (rose, stream, etc.)
Piano and voice
Text and accompaniment closely related
Tried to create a musical scene
Song Cycle → group of poems by one poet set
to music
Lied → (German) “song” (pl. lieder)
Schubert & Schumann
♫ Schubert → Gretchen Am Spinnrade
Schubert → Gretchen Am Spinnrade
Wagner’s Operas
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Leitmotif → little tune
Help audience follow along
Character, object, event, emotion
♫ Hunding (character)
♫ Golden Apples (object)
♫ Alberich’s Threat (event)
♫ Siegfried’s Anger (emotion)
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