- Not only one way to perform music of this period; much freedom is allowed.
- Little or no distinction is found between instrumental and vocal styles; they are usually interchangeable.
- Need considerable knowledge of style, original instruments, etc.
- Involves use of new forms and timbres.
Vocal Quality & Choral Singing
- Average choir consisted of boy sopranos, male altos with tenor & bass; had from 3 to 5 on a part with the boy soprano part doubled.
- Vibrato was considered an ornament (can be used today if natural and with no hint of exaggeration).
- Male “castrati” used – now a lost timbre.
- Sacred music was choral oriented, but secular music was usually performed one to a part with various possibilities of instrumental substitution or doubling.
Problems of Notation
- Dynamics are rarely indicated, phrasing never!
- Musica ficta
a. Used to raise leading tone at cadential points; used to avoid dim. 5ths (aug. 4ths) harmonically and melodically.
b. “Secret Chromatic Art in the Netherlands Motet” (Edward Lowinsky)
- Pitch was not standardized; varied greatly from church organ to church organ (one should feel free to change pitch up or down to better suit the voices you have)
Ornamentation & Improvisation
- More common in secular compositions than the sacred; i.e., music with one on a part.
- Chiefly at cadences and on sustained notes.
- Appropriate for voices and instruments.
- Should occur in only one voice part at a time; most common in soprano part, but possible in all parts.
- More appropriate toward end of piece than at the beginning.
- Indicated by notational signs that suggest absolute durations rather than through tempo terms.
- Governed by unit of time called “tactus.”
a. Has 2 parts, each equal (thus not one strong and one weak!).
b. Determined to be speed of heart beat or moderate walk; i.e., M.M. = 60-80.
c. Conducted as up and down pattern, often heard audibly! In triple meter the down was twice as long as the up.
d. Tempo changes done through proportional changes: i.e., o = o. suggests a ratio of 2 to 3; thus three notes are to be performed in the time of the previous two.
- Must use text as point of departure; find word stresses.
- Try to forget bar lines as determiners of stress.
- Phrase shape is dictated by movement to and from stress points; thus will likely not be a smooth arching curve, but will rather contain irregular arching phrases.
- Dynamic fluctuations should be limited to one degree within phrases though greater freedom may be used between major sectional divisions if warranted by the text. Extremes should be avoided.
- As the tension relaxes at cadence points, there should also be a softening of the dynamic.