Timothy's Blog

Timothy's blog on dulcimers, music, nature and life!

I am a musician playing primarily hammered dulcimer and flute, and have produced 15 instrumental albums on Virginia, Nature, History, Celtic, Christmas, and other themes; self-styled and original in approach, with a strong respect for sources and meanings.


Classical music IV b: The Elizabethan period

The Elizabethan era, named for one of the most notable Tudor monarchs in England, has enough distinctives for us to consider it separately from the Renaissance on the Continent.

The lute and viol (often in ensembles called ‘consorts’) were prominent instruments; and a particular style of madrigal was developed. John Dowland wrote a large number of lute solo masterpieces; one of the most famous is included below.

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Classical Music IV a: Renaissance on the Continent and in the church

The Renaissance (French for ‘Rebirth’) in the West brought new developments in polyphonic music --- an extension of the multi-lined melodic experimentation that had been done in the late Middle Ages by such people as Hildegarde, De Machaut, and Dufay.

One notable element in ancient music from prehistoric times on through the Medieval, by the way, was improvisation: It was normal practice for a performer to come up with a newly composed work on the spot, within expected structural parameters such as chosen modes and matching music with texts. This improvisation did continue on into later periods --- for example, Bach was a famous improviser, and players of Romantic concertos made up their own cadenzas --- but as a central practice it waned somewhat in the Renaissance, as composition became more static and complex as written on the page.

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Classical Music History III: The Medieval times

The Middle Ages of Europe is often said to have extended from about 500 to 1400 a.d. During that period there was a great deal of monophonic (one note at a time) chant, monophonic melody over a drone, and rhythmic monophonic dance music; then in the later centuries the stark harmonic parallel concept of organum was introduced and some limited polyphonic movement (more than one melodic part, overlapping in non-synchronized phrases).

Pope Gregory the Great introduced the pure, formulaic, clean-sounding Gregorian Chant; Hildegarde von Bingen was a highly creative mystic over several disciplines including music.

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Classical music history II: the Byzantine era

The Byzantine Empire produced a kind of music that is still alive today in the liturgies of Orthodox Churches of various kinds, and from that same time there are also ancient Jewish kinds of music that continue in our time. Here are links to Youtube audio of a few samples of this essentially monophonic, chant-like form of the art:

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Classical Music History I: Ancient Greece

For a high school (‘Rhetoric’) class at the school where I teach, I’m putting together a master list and a series of blog posts with some comments about different periods in the history of Western Classical music; I plan to have these postings span over about three months and be finished by December of this year.

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