The Baroque Period:
What is the Baroque Era?
• The Baroque era was a time in history where
much of what we know about our
surroundings are being discovered.
• There is more focus on the human emotions
and complex ornamentations that can be
found in literature, art, and music.
• The meaning of “Baroque” is: An ugly,
deformed and fermented pearl.
Important Baroque Thinkers:
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642): He is known
for perfecting the telescope and is also
known as the father of Modern Astronomy.
He asserted the idea that the earth was not
in fact the center of the universe as
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727): He
was an English Physicist and
Mathematician. Most famous for
“Newton’s Law” and the idea of
“gravity”. He also established a
scientific method that is still used
It’s all about the fancy stuff!
Notice the ornate
style of the
Typical Baroque Hallways and Corridors.
• Art from the Baroque Era can best described
as “dark”, “dramatic”, central to one specific
• They sometimes represent serious themes
that can include but not be limited to: social
issues, religion, and political portraits.
• Colors and painting styles are very dramatic,
but most importantly very ORNATE!
Notice, that the subject
matter is “focused” to
one direction of the
paintings. The colors in
general are dark in
nature, but very
detailed in texture.
• It is with no exception that Baroque Era music
would show some of those many
embellishments and ornamentation found in
other areas of society.
• Like the paintings, the music focused on one
specific feeling and/or emotion.
• We begin to see a wide variety of styles
emerge along with various instruments being
Throughout the Baroque period, composers
continued to be employed by the church and
wealthy ruling class. This system of employment
was called the patronage system. As the patron
paid the composer for each work and usually
decided what kind of piece the composer should
write, this limited their creative freedom.
Important Baroque composers include Johann
Sebastian Bach, George Frederic Handel, Johann
Pachelbel, Georg Phillip Telemann, Henry Purcell
and Antonio Vivaldi.
• Dances were popular during this period as well as preludes, fugues, suites, toccatas and
theme and variations. Binary and ternary forms were used frequently.
• Two or more melodies played at the same time created a musical texture called
counterpoint. There were frequent harmonic changes. Tonality was based on major and
• The clavichord, harpsichord, and organ were used.
• Emphasis was on strong beats, upbeats and fast-changing rhythmic motion. Eighths, 16ths
and triplets were frequently used.
• Phrase and expression marks were not used. Faster notes were normally played smooth;
slower notes were normally played not very smooth. Ornaments were used frequently.
• Composers like Johann Sebastian Bach reacted to the
Baroque trend of fancy ornamentation by creating
complex polyphonic music consisting of elaborate
melodies layered top of each other. Often these
melodies contained trills and fast moving notes. The
idea of using chords to accompany one or more
melody lines also became common. In addition,
composers began to write dynamics and tempo
markings in their music. Improvisation also became
common, even in the Church. Finally, composers began
to use their music to express emotions such as joy and
• The Baroque period saw the birth of a new form
of music called opera. Opera combined music,
acting, scenery, costumes, and props. Actors and
actresses sing the script, or libretto. Some Operas
are serious (opera seria), and some are funny
• The first opera was “Orfeo", by Claudio
• Similar to the opera is the cantata. The Cantata,
like the opera, is a series of arias and recitatives.
However, the cantata is not staged or acted.
• During the Baroque period, instrumental music became as important as
vocal music. The Baroque period saw a rise in music for flute, oboe,
bassoon, trombone, valve-less trumpets and horns, harpsichord, and
organ. Recorders became less popular, and viols were gradually replaced
by violins, violas, and cellos. Timpani was the only percussion instrument
used in serious music.
• Much of the music written for instruments contained several contrasting
sections or movements. One example is the concerto. Concertos were
developed in the second half of the 17th century by Italian composers like
Torelli, Alessandro Scarlatti, and Corelli. Within 25 years, almost all major
centres had their own concerto composer. One of the most famous
concertos is Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
• Concertos sometimes featured one soloist or a group of soloists.
Concertos featuring a group of soloists were known as concerto grossos.
Concerto grossos were written for a group of solo instruments and
orchestra, and usually contained three movements (fast-slow-fast).
Upper Left: An assortment of
baroque era string instruments.
Upper Right: The Clavichord.
Bottom Left: Baroque Trumpets.
Some Notable Composers:
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Claudio Montiverdi (1567-1643)
• Complete the “Questionnaire” found online
titled: “Baroque Era Presentation”.
• You will also complete the “Music Era
Worksheet” also found online.
• Both papers are to be printed and submitted
for next class! September 21, 2011.