Choral music requires a great deal of skill. The phrasing of the music, the length of consonant sounds, and the intake of breath all play a role in a choir’s sound. For more information, Click Here to proceed.
The most common type of choral group is an adult mixed choir consisting of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass voices, abbreviated SATB. A baritone voice is sometimes added, as well.
Gregorian chant is monophonic, meaning that different vocal parts sing the same melodic line. This contrasts later religious and secular music, where the voices sing different but harmonizing melodic lines. During its heyday, Gregorian chant was widely used in Europe. It took its name from Pope Gregory the Great and was credited to him as the inventor of chant in the Middle Ages. Although scholars now believe that he was not responsible for introducing the style, he was instrumental in its dissemination. The chants are based on the biblical Psalter and other sacred texts. They are usually in Latin and strophic, with a fixed melody for the text and a free accompaniment. The simplest melody is the recitative melody, which consists of a single pitch, referred to as the reciting tone. The other chants are sequences and hymns, which are more elaborate than recitatives.
Initially, chants were transmitted orally, but by the 10th century, musical notation had developed. Its spread was assisted by the emergence of the Carolingian Renaissance, a period of cultural and artistic renewal led by Charlemagne. The repertoire of Gregorian chants is diverse and includes both psalmodic and non-psalmodic chants. The latter has a predetermined structure, such as the ordinary of the Mass and the sequences. The former, such as the Introit and the Gradual, develop from a refrain sung between psalm verses and are characterized by a pneumatic style.
In the 19th century, Dom Prosper Gueranger and his monks at Solesmes restored Gregorian chant as the core of the Church’s solemn liturgy. Unfortunately, false antiquarianism and novelty-mongering modernism threw a wrench into the work, leading chant to near extinction. Fortunately, like any great art form, Gregorian chant has been revived by generations of musicians and reinterpreted to suit changing tastes and technologies.
The Renaissance era, which spans the 15th and 16th centuries, significantly developed Western music. Polyphony, the superimposition of different melodic lines, became a hallmark of Renaissance musical style. The earliest examples of polyphony used one preexisting melody, often from Gregorian chant, as a base for composing new parts around it. Other types of Renaissance music included a large variety of instrumental works. These include motets, masses, chansons, and accompanied songs. Early forms of modern instruments also appeared, including the slide trumpet, which played like a recorder but with a sliding section that moved across a mouthpiece.
The music of the middle Renaissance, exemplified by composers Josquin des Prez and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, marked a major departure from the homophonic singing that characterizes Medieval music. These two composers introduced the independent interlocking melodic lines that we call counterpoint. Josquin’s use of the tenor voice, which sang notes of longer duration than other voices, helped develop this style.
Masses were an important form of Renaissance music. The composers of this era developed four distinct types of mass settings. The cantus firmus mass incorporated a preexistent chant in the tenor, while other composers used different melodies for each portion of the Ordinary. Masses without a cantus firmus were known as free masses and could incorporate a variety of melodies.
As the Renaissance era closed, a highly virtuosic musical style developed, now known as mannerism. This style featured intricate rhythm and extreme chromaticism. It was especially pronounced in the music of madrigals, a type of vocal music. Today, ensembles specializing in Renaissance music perform works by composers such as Dufay, Machaut, and Lassus.
The Lutheran cantata is a musical drama that incorporates recitative and aria music. It is a form that grew out of the earlier baroque genre. It is a style that modernist scholars have criticized for being limiting. However, it is also credited with contributing to Bach’s inimitable style.
The cantatas Bach wrote for this cycle all featured different subjects and themes. While most cantatas were based on melodies, some were free-text paraphrases. The latter type was more common in the Leipzig cantatas.
BWV 180 is based on a chorale by Johann Oleariutus, usually sung to one of Luther’s tunes for the choral O Gott du Frommer Gott (O Lord Our God). The cantata begins with an exuberant orchestral sinfonia and a dramatic contrapuntal chorus. The chorale melody appears only in the opening, while the other movements are based on free-text paraphrases.
While the hymn is the focus of this cantata, the other movements also have considerable musical merit. The tenor recitative features a dazzling display of word painting. It uses a figure Albert Schweitzer called “the joy motive” and musical depictions of knocking that suggest the text.
The bass recitative, on the other hand, is quite demanding. It combines the older secco style with a more measured rhythm. It also employs several chromatic figures, including a rapid descending scale and active figuration in all parts. At the mention of death, Bach uses a string sound that suggests a knocking noise, and at the words auferwecken (“awake”), the continuo group plays a repeated rhythm.
The development of formal structures in music characterizes the Baroque era. The symphony and opera are among the most important works of this period, but there were also other forms, such as fantasies and toccatas. During this time, text was paramount, but the emphasis moved away from the Renaissance ideal of multiple independent vocal lines toward soprano-bass polarity and a dominant single melody. Nevertheless, the complexity of harmony and counterpoint continued to develop.
The melody is one of the most common modal forms of polyphony. Its melody is often accompanied by a continuo, a set of chords played on a string instrument such as the violin or cello. Various techniques, such as terraced dynamics and changing tempos between sections, can be used in choral composition. Another feature is contrasting textures in the vocal parts, such as open or closed spacing. A melody can be based on an ancient chant or an original composition.
Non-imitative polyphony is a form of musical composition that uses different rhythm patterns in the voices without repetition of ideas. The harmonies of each voice are independent from the others and differ in contour and interval continuity. This method allows the voices to support the melodic line by creating an interesting and expressive musical texture.
This style of music emphasized the dramatic aspects of the words in the text, and composers often tried to convey emotion or a sense of mysticism. The symphony and cantata are examples of Baroque choral compositions that combine polyphonic technique with theological themes. During the Baroque era, many of these choral works were composed for church services and were intended to be performed by large ensembles. In modern times, most choral music is written for small groups of singers.
Polyphony is a musical style that uses multiple independent melodic lines to create complex and intricate music. It is the opposite of monophony, which has one melody accompanied by chords. Modern polyphony is used in many different genres, including classical and jazz.
The development of polyphony in the Middle Ages was a turning point for European culture. It gave rise to various innovations in science, art, and music. It also led to the growth of the choral movement, which is still an important part of Western culture today. The concept of polyphony is based on the idea that melodies can be separated into parts, and each part will have a different rhythm. The resulting combination of voices creates an overlapping harmony that gives the piece depth and complexity. This structure is also known as counterpoint.
Historically, there were two major categories of polyphony. The first was called homophony and consisted of melodies moving together harmonically at the same pace. This was followed by a more complex polyphony incorporating imitative and polyrhythmic textures—the earliest example of a practical composition with more than one independent voice dates from around 1000.
While a variety of choral compositions are considered to be polyphonic, most are homophonic. This includes most traditional Protestant hymns and even most barbershop quartet music. In addition to a unified rhythm, homophonic polyphony has an unifying register and a limited number of beats and accents. The harmonies are also not alternating, but they move in parallel intervals.
The surviving oldest piece of six-part polyphony is the English rota Sumer is acumen in, or “summer has come in.” This type of music was composed before the Western Schism, and Guillaume de Machaut wrote the first surviving polyphonic Mass.