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Developments in the Baroque Era

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Music
Wordcount: 3361 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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 The Baroque Era brought forth many changes to the way musicians compose their music. Compositions were written not only to depict specific emotions but also to arouse them in the listener. In order to understand a composition a listener should first familiarize themselves with the era in which the specific music piece was composed. By doing so it is easier to understand what message the composer was trying to send to the listener. This paper focuses on the era of Baroque music and how composers used the style to compose their music. The seventeenth century marked the beginning of the Baroque Era which followed the Renaissance Era. Music during the Renaissance Era greatly influenced the coming of the Baroque styles of music. After the Renaissance period, music was becoming more instrumental and a lot more dramatic and expressive. Despite the Renaissance having motets in Latin language and similar melodies, there are many distinctive details which differentiate the eras. This paper will analyze various compositions and show how new ideas were embedded into exsited styles.
 The Baroque Era can be divided into two periods: the early Baroque period and the later Baroque period. During the early Baroque period, composers focused on specific words rather than expressing an entire emotion. “Music was actively to create the intended affections, not just passively reflect them”.[1] During the later Baroque period, composers sought a way to express not just a single word but an entire emotion in a single music piece. The Doctrine of Affections or simply, the Doctrine of Affects, is one of the most important concepts in the baroque style, specifically in the late Baroque period. It is known to be the aesthetic basis of this style of music. This theory of musical aesthetics was focused on arousing the listeners’ emotions. It was most popular amongst composers and theorists of the late Baroque era.  Prior to this style, polyphony, where two or more independent music lines were used was popular. The Doctrine of Affects eliminated polyphony and contributed to the creation of monody. A monody is a music style consisting of a solo and, of course, one melodic line, unlike polyphony. The term monody is made from two words “mono”, meaning one, and adding the “-dy” ending from the word “melody”, creates the word with the meaning “one melody”. Monody music is accompanied by a song, also sung by one person. The solos of monodies are simple yet at the same they are emotionally expressive harmonies. Monody arose in Italy in the early seventeenth century in response to relating styles, one of them being baroque motet. Motets have undergone numerous transformations throughout the centuries of their existence and serve as an essential style of vocal composition in baroque music. Motets focus on religious music and come from choral compositions that have derived from Latin religion. Motets were also used in the “praise of a monarch, commemorating some public triumph, or even praising music itself”[2] during the Renaissance period. However, the topic of religion is not necessary and often the composition can be secular. Despite such a fact, religious texts are most common among motets and secular motets are usually considered an exception. Motets are focused on solos and, at times, can be accompanied by a choir. The motet was created around the thirteenth century to accompany music with words. Despite the use of motet in secular compositions, this style of composition is focused on the topic of religion. 
 The baroque motet was most famous in Germany, having the style’s best composers in the country. It “took on a more exciting and grandiose proportion in Germany than any other place”.[3] The era of baroque motet began with the famous Heinrich Schütz and made its way to Johann Sebastian Bach. Schutz’s Symphoniae Sacrae uses many innovated “instrumental combinations, vocal coloraturas, imitation between singer and instruments, trumpet “fanfares” etc.”[4] Such motets were written to German text, while other motets were usually written in Latin. Johann Sebastian Bach is known to have composed six motets. His composition of motets brought to a close the era of such style of composing music. Though motets were still composed in later decades and centuries, they never acquired anything that would be noteworthy or of significance. Almost all of Bach’s motets are composed for unaccompanied choruses. Most are written for a double-chorus of eight voices. However, Bach’s motet Jesu Meine Freude was written for five voices. Also, Bach’s Lobet den Herrn motet was the only one to have any accompaniment which was an organ and also differed from his other motet’s due to having four voices. Despite Bach bringing the era of motet innovations and development to a close, “it was to be seen that there was a considerable amount of writing of motets after Bach’s time”.[5] The reason why the era stopped at Bach is due to the future composers not contributing to developing new ideas in composing motets. Composers such as Brahms, Hasse, Mozart, Schumann, and Mendelssohn all composed motets but were amongst those who did not contribute to the further development of the style.
 One of the first polished German composers of the Baroque era, Johann Hermann Schein, wrote Die mit Tränen säen intending to evoke the emotion and feeling of joy in the listener. The lyrics read the following:

“They who sow with tears will reap with joy.

The go out and weep and carry worthy seed,

And return with joy and bring their sheaves”.[6]

Schein uses all possible elements to evoke joy in the ones who listen by incorporating as many musical, vocal, and lyrical elements that would only enhance such a feeling and emotion. His motet contains multiple voices: two sopranos, an alto, a tenor, and a bass. “The main characteristic change that the Baroque motet developed in contrast to its predecessors was the abandonment of purely a-cappella style”.[7] During this time period, the word “motet” obtained its own meaning and was used to describe compositions which were written for solo voices, as well as, duets, trios, quartets and so on. The word “motet” also described a piece of music written for instrumental accompaniment, which quite often included the organ. 
 In order to understand what has been written, we will give a deeper analysis of Schein’s motet Die mit Tränen säen. The lyrics to the song are of high importance in order for the affection to take place. Also, the form is no less significant in the composition. “Schein introduced continuo figures in the bass part for the use of ‘organists, instrumentalists and lutenists’, wrote new harmonizations for many hymns, and included forty-one hymn in which he himself provided the melody, the harmonization, and the text”.[8] Since Schein grew up in a religious family with his father being a pastor, the composer focused on religious music. In fact, “Prtotestant churches, notably the German Lutherans and French Huguenots, concentrated on hymns and Psalms”.[9] His Die mit Tränen säen composition was no exception, having biblical scripture as its lyrics. As mentioned before, the lyrics were sung in German language, distinguishing it from other motets which were sung in Latin. The lyrics are from Psalm 126:5-6. Though this verse speaks about labor and suffering, at the same time, it puts an emphasis on the outcome, that being the joy that is to come in return for the hardships. Though Die mit Tränen säen is for the most part, polyphonic, there are a few sections that will be analyzed below which differ from others in the same composition, making it pleasing to listen to.
 In the beginning, the motet starts with a rather slow pace. The first half of the composition has many rests. From measure one up to measure thirty-two close to half of the measures for at least one voice have rests. However, after the thirty-second measure, we observe only a few rests in measures thirty-three and thirty-eight. Die mit Tränen säen also incorporates a lot of melismatic singing which is imitated by a lute in the beginning of the composition. However, we observe melismatic singing throughout the composition. It is most prominent in measures two through ten, eighteen through nineteen, and forty-four through forty-five. However, there are other sections where melismatic singing appears yet it does not sound as intense and attention-grabbing as the previously mentioned measures. The following analysis of measures will show how the sections of the music represent the emotions. From beginning to end, the composition changes the notes played and pace. Quarter notes and dotted half notes are seen towards the end of the piece and the pace becomes noticeably faster. Rhythms which are played quicker using major chords evoke positive emotions such as joy. This is exactly what we observe in the sections from the Die mit Tränen säen below. 

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 In measure twelve through seven the line werden mit Freuden, mit Freuden is repeated beginning from soprano and adding on voices. Though the voices begin as polyphonic, each line ends with the formation of the C major chord, which completes the harmony. Why this is important to note is because a C major chord sounds joyful and together with the lyrics “will reap with joy” at the end, it creates the impression of joy and arouses joyful emotions in the listener. This is why having utmost precision and correct chords, intervals and all musical aspects in place with the lyrics plays a significant role in the emotions the composition transfers to its listener.
 Measures twenty-six through thirty are also worth the attention. Sopranos sing “And return with joy, and return with joy, with joy” together with the tenor. They gradually change and take turns singing throughout the compositions. At times sopranos rest and the alto together with the bass and tenor continue to repeat the line over again. The voices reunite together at the thirty-third measure on A major. This is a prominent pattern in Schein’s compositions using which he evokes various emotions.
 The analyzed measures are a great representation of the Doctrine of Affections. The Doctrine of Affection was the practice of composing music that expressed a single emotion (affect) which is unique to the Baroque era.[10] While the first idea of the Doctrine of Affection focused on one emotion, composers yearned for freedom in expressing multiple emotions in one composition. This is visible in the Die mit Tränen säen where the compositions begins with one feeling and ends with another. In order to do so, composers decided to break up the text into a few parts. This gave them the opportunity to express a different emotion in each separate phrase of the text, same as we observe in Schein’s composition. That way, the idea of a single emotion or effect would remain, however, only within the phrase, with the entire composition having multiple emotions.
 The most important part of the Doctrine of Affection is putting the affections into effect. In order to be able to arouse various emotions, it is critical to understand that the basis of music is sound. Such a statement is an interpretation of baroque motet itself. The sound produced by musicians triggers various emotions in listeners. Composers of the Baroque era “began to place a much greater emphasis on music’s dramatic power to express different passions and elicit emotional responses from the audience”.[11] One of the most common impressions composers faced their work at was expressing rage, sorrow, hate, compassion, love, and joy through their music. The Doctrine of Affections was crucial in the baroque period since it “governed musical composition through the musical elements of intervals, key, and tempo”.[12]
 It is of high importance to understand where the idea of showing affection in music came from. Ancient Greece had a teaching called the teaching of temperaments. It consisted of four temperaments “sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic”.[13] Each one of the four temperaments is distinct and has an affection associated with it. The sanguine temperament causes emotions of love, happiness, and various positive emotions to arise whilst the phlegmatic triggers emotions of peace and joy. The melancholic temperament triggers emotions of pain and sorrow. The choleric temperament causes a person to feel angry and furious. Though each individual usually has a more prominent character with one of the temperaments distinguishing their individuality, composers sought out a way to arouse all of the temperaments in every individual. In order to achieve such effect, musicians decided intervals were their tool to utilize the expression of emotions.
 To give a broader explanation of the importance of the use of intervals it is best to examine the work of Johann Mattheson, a famous and notable German composer and theorist. He was born in 1681, during the Baroque era and from a young age was able to acquire the idea the era brought forth to its composers. He was known for his opera compositions and was one of the greatest proponents of the Doctrine of Affections. His dedication “to researching emotional expression through instrumental music produced a wealth of theoretical works and compositional guides”.[14] Composed in 1739, Vollkommene Capellmeister was one of Mattheson’s’ best compositions.  The composition “contains a thorough outline of melodic intervals and their affective purposes”.[15] The composer’s understanding of intervals changed the view of intervals for growing generations. “Mattheson argues that a major third represents liveliness, a minor third mourning, a fifth boldness, and a seventh supplication”.[16] His interpretation of intervals opened composers to the use of innovated ideas to create music a listener can interpret in their own way, at the same time, understanding what the composer intended to express. He explained that in his view, joy was best expressed by intervals that were large and expanded. He also noted that music which had a joyful sound to it also incorporated wider intervals. At the same time, he observed that the narrowest intervals conveyed sadness and were the most useful in order to give such impression and emotion.
 To give an example of such practice, one must listen to pieces of music from the late baroque era. One of such composers was George Frideric Handel, whom in his Utrecht Te Deum expresses different emotions. The piece is a sacred choral composition played in two parts. Handel separated his composition into ten movements, giving each movement a unique interpretation using emotions. Handel wrote the piece to celebrate the 1713 Treaty ofUtrecht. Though it was composed and played for such event, all of the songs were of religious background. Each of the ten songs praises God, worshipping his name and the triumph he brings. A few of the ten include We praise Thee, O God, Day by day we magnify thee, O Lord, in thee have I trusted, and The Glorious Company of the Apostles.  
 To conclude, the baroque motet brought forth significant changes to music and the way it was perceived. It gave way for composers to express more emotions and reach out to the listener to evoke the same emotions in them as well. The Doctrine of Affection was the crucial element in order for such change to take place, offering new ways to compose music in order to arouse various feelings while listening to the compositions.



  Bartel 2009


  New World Encyclopedia, 2008.


  Hailparn, 12.


  Ibid, 12.


  Ibid, 22.


 ”Emmanuel Music – Schein: Die Mit Tränen Säen – Translation”. 2019. Emmanuelmusic.Org. http://www.emmanuelmusic.org/notes_translations/translations_motets/t_schein_traenen.htm.


  Hailparn, 12.


  Anderson, 42.


  Borroff, 2.


  Qtd. in Jones, p. 60


  Dissmore, 1.


  Ibid, 1.


  Ibid, 2.


  Ibid, 2.


  Ibid, 3.


  Ibid, 3.


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