The Renaissance musical period

The musical period known as the Renaissance is commonly understood to cover European music of the 1400s and 1500s. The advent of the Contenance angloise (English Manner) style saw a rise in the use of triadic harmony, and proponents of these methods such as John Dunstaple, influenced musicians of the Burgundian School of the European Low countries. The adoption of the basso continuo saw the demise of the Renaissance and the beginning of the Baroque period.

As with other artistic expressions, the music of the Renaissance period was heavily influenced by developments in European civilisation of the time, these included:
  • Adoption of Humanistic values like freedom of thought
  • Recovery of the artistic heritage of Ancient Greece and Rome
  • Emphasis on innovation and discovery
  • Investment in commercial enterprise
  • The rise of the middle-class
  • The Protestant reformation
This energetic evolution if society resulted in a unifying musical culture, particularly dominated by the polyphonic style of the Franco-Flemish School.

Renaissance music performance

Renaissance musicians in concert
Previous to the invention of the printing press in 1439, all sheet music and musical teaching texts were all hand-written - which was a laborious and expensive process. The printing press allowed for a much wider distribution of sheet music, and availability to the middle-class of society.

In the Low Countries of France, Belgium and the Netherlands there existed a blossoming culture of musical instruction, particularly in churches and cathedrals, which saw the training of numerous singers, instrumentalists, and composers. The musical ideas of the Franco-Flemish School were spread to other parts of Europe like Italy, where these musicians were employed in aristocratic courts and churches. This influence can particularly be seen in Florence, where opera had its early beginnings.