Joseph Dopke

Music History I

Dr. Foreman

December 21, 2015

Madrigals: From Arcadelt to Monteverdi

The importance of music being divorced from its sacred roots is unquestionably a

significant development in not only musical history, but cultural history. Music, like any

other art, is the manifestation of an expression; binding and restricting this expression has

proven to be impossible, and among the many significant musical forms in which this

liberated music has taken form is in the madrigal. By its very nature, the madrigal is a secular

musical entity, and historically was a flexible medium for composers to innovate, leading the

way for future styles such as opera. Investigating the history of the madrigal proves to be of

particular significance as a result.

Beginning not from the beginning, studying Jacques Arcadelt places us within the

bounds of Florence, Italy, and in the Flemish school1. Known for his smooth melodies and

expressive music, Arcadelt’s compositions are among the most significant regarding

madrigals; his first work being published in 1538 had a startling 16 editions post original

publishing, and by 1544, his works were being rapidly consumed.2 Others from the Flemish

school of madrigals include composers such as Waelrant, who composed Symphonie

Angelica in 1594, and Verdelot, all of whom took a similar approach to Arcadelt in that their

music, while not rich in ornamentation, was rather focused on the melodic and harmonic

1 "Jacques Arcadelt." Jacques Arcadelt. Accessed December 21, 2015.
2 Grove, George, and Eric Blom. Grove's Dictionary of Music And Musicians. 5th ed. Vol. 1.

London: Macmillan;, 1954. 101 other innovations such as more expressive text-painting devices via composers like Rore were to grab hold and become commonplace. as the madrigal began to take on new forms and begin to innovate as its influence spread throughout Italy. and Eric Blom.3 These text-painting devices often included (at the time) heavy chromaticism. George.lcsproductions. Regarding the texture of madrigals. Accessed December 21. depending on the composer. madrigals helped establish a precedent to be adopted by Opera. the tonal system was starting to become more of a significant factor. in which the rhythm of the text often times helped dictate the rhythm of the music.4 These seemingly opposite facets of what is the sound of the madrigal come head to head when discussing two composers in particular: Palestrina and Monteverdi. helping to further loosen the grip on dissonance-less music. 4 "The Italian Madrigal of the Renaissance. This was soon to change however. 1954. 12-18. Once composers such as Gabrieli were to begin to push the envelope and start writing with more open textures. pushing not only the form forward. decorative homophony. and these voices were used in various ways. Musical innovations/characteristics of madrigals can be taken note of as representative of the transition from the renaissance to the baroque. but music as a whole forward. London: Macmillan." The Italian Madrigal of the Renaissance. 2015. served to create tension and provide more a more emotive experience for the listener.. which on a microcosmic scale. 3 Grove. .content being strong and impactful. Melodically. Grove's Dictionary of Music And Musicians. http://www. while on a macrocosmic scale. no other instruments aside from the voice were employed. Vol. harmony in madrigals often times would blend tonality and modality to form interesting results. versus the previously held precedent of employing modality. On a rhythmic level. 5th ed. 3. similarly. from strict contrapuntal exercises to emotive.

Joe. Monteverdi’s musical liberation in regards to madrigals led to the composer Gesualdo. Dubbing his iteration of this more free musical style the “secunda pratica”. However. When discussing madrigals. Monteverdi attempted to squeeze every last bit of emotion he could out of his text5. The madrigals of Monteverdi were seemingly in defiance of the ever so structured madrigals by Palestrina. 6 Staines. most likely when attempting to defend his forward thinking harmony. 205. while not being the only music he is known for. declare it to be “crap” and “back in my 5 "Claudio Monteverdi. Highly influential for their time and widely copied by other composers. and indeed. so the disgruntled previous generation looked upon the newer generation’s art with a furrowed brow and in a generation-gap-demonstrating wail. to which Palestrina could only have assumed was a naïve and absolutely more eccentric artistic oppose. . Known equally for his sacred music as well as his secular. http://america. However. and off kilter due to their lack of proper setting up and resolving of dissonances. which was known for being able to harmoniously marry expressive text painting with extreme levels of regimentation in regards to resolving dissonances. 4th ed. who viewed them as awkward. Monteverdi would continue on to write nine books of Madrigals. The Rough Guide to Classical Music. Deciding to focus less on perfection and more on pure expressivity. Accessed December 21. were a weighty edition to the history of the craft. London: Rough Guides. when one mentions Palestrina. 2005. Palestrina was a key figure in the school later dubbed as “prima pratica”. whose music was so dissonant that it seemed to foreshadow atonal composers like Schoenberg6. to Palestrina’s credit. Palestrina’s madrigals. it does the topic a disservice to not discuss the incredibly prolific Palestrina. it becomes challenging to not mention his younger. 2015. Monteverdi.html." Claudio Monteverdi. improper.

but a mirror reflecting the attitudes and opinions of the time period. ever discussed. the French appeared to not pay much mind to it. and in the madrigal’s case. . 5th ed. certainly saw bounds. Vol. the influence of the madrigal can be felt throughout much of classical music. while important. As most music does. ever remembered. With all that being said. 12-18. and Eric Blom. Grove's Dictionary of Music And Musicians. 3. it is not only an important musical genre in its own right.” All with a grimace reminiscent of when one smells an unpleasant odor. Naples. Main geographic foci of the madrigal included Florence. Venice as well as England. As a we had real music. Florence. the Germans appeared to reject the madrigal. after all. the conception of Opera is hard to imagine.. The madrigal’s geographic influence. 1954. preferring their own poetry being adapted to Chansons via the Netherlands. all while being in Italy. and the locations in which it flourished. after all. being important centers of commerce in their time. as well as the movement into the Baroque period. the attitudes of the composers peer through offering a revealing look into the time period and their attitudes towards life and culture. being very dissimilar to the ever popular. this attitude is that of a revolution in thought and appreciation in raw human emotion. the locations in which madrigals flourished were certainly significant. 7Grove. held a level of influence over the world. ever taught and ever analyzed Vollcslied7. Considering the madrigal’s period of significance. Naples and Venice. George. to which Monteverdi is a fantastic representation of. without the madrigal. London: Macmillan.