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Vital Terms: Renaissance and Baroque

A cappella: music written without any accompaniment, usually vocal.

Basso continuo: bass line and continuous chords that continuously underline the melody in
Baroque music. Typically written for the cello, viola, bass viol, harpsicord, or organ.
Cadenza: An ornamental passage performed near the close of a composition, usually
improvised, and usually performed by a soloist. Cadenzas are mostly to be found in arias or a
Concerto: This term was originally applied to almost any kind of concerted music for voices and
instruments of the Baroque era. Today it is taken to mean a composition that shows off a
specific instrument (or instruments) with the orchestra used as accompaniment.
Concerto grosso: A Baroque style of music in which a small group of solo instruments (the
concertino) plays in opposition to a larger ensemble (the ripieno).
Declamation: A method of setting text or words to music where rhythms and pitches are used
to enhance the meaning or sound of specific syllables of the text.
Figured bass: The bass part generally of a Baroque composition that is marked so as to
indicate the harmonies that should go with each note.
Madrigal: A vocal music form that flourished in the Renaissance, originating in Italy. The
madrigal is generally written for four to six voices that may or may not be accompanied. In
modern performance madrigals are usually presented a cappella
Motet :A polyphonic vocal style of composition. The motet was popular in the middle ages,
when it consisted of a tenor foundation upon which other melodies were added. The texts of
these voices could be sacred or secular, Latin or French, and usually had little to do with each
other, with the result that the composition lacked unity and direction
Movement: Complete, self-contained section within a larger musical composition
Ornamentation: Decorative notes of short duration added to compositions to emphasize certain
notes and to add flavor to the composition. Ornamentation has been used through all periods
of music in Western tradition, but are particularly prominent in the late Renaissance, Baroque,
and Classical eras. Ornamentation is not limited to specific instruments, but may be performed
on almost any instrument, including the voice
Opus: A term used to classify a composition in relation to the composer's other compositions.
Abbreviated as "Op." (work) or "Opp." (works), compositions are typically given an opus
number in chronological order (i.e. "Op. 1", "Op. 2", etc.). Because the opus numbers are often
assigned by publishers, they are not always a reliable indication of the chronology of the
Ostinato: A short melodic, rhythmic, or harmonic pattern that is repeated throughout an entire
composition or some portion of a composition.
Imitative Polyphony: A harmony which mimics a part of a song, which regularly repeats.
Ritornello Form: The form includes a ritornello- A short, recurring instrumental passage in
Baroque aria and concerti, particularly in a tutti section
Tempered (scale): A scale with mathematically calculated pitches.
Variation Form: A form in which a single melodic unit is repeated with a harmonic, dynamic, or
timbral change.
Word painting: Musical depiction of words in text. Using the device of word painting, the music
tries to imitate the emotion, action, or natural sounds as described in the text. For example, if
the text describes a sad event, the music might be in a minor key. Conversely, if the text is
joyful, the music may be set in a major key. This device was used often in madrigals and other
works of the Renaissance and Baroque.