“Why does renaissance music sound fuller than medieval music?” I hear you ask. You’re right to ask that question, and I have even more doubts about your motives for wanting to know the answer. What in the world is so special about the renaissance period that it must be filled with more “flowery” sounds than the rest of the music of the time? I’ll try to explain a bit more, so that you can make up your own mind as to why does renaissance music sound fuller than medieval music.
To begin with, let’s distinguish between “classical” music and “restorative”. Classical music, by definition, is any music that you would listen to if you were going to study classical music for its pure beauty – i.e., music that leaves an everlasting impression on your mind. Now, let’s make it simpler: classical music is all beautiful, unique, and created by some of the greatest composers in the history of music. Renaissance music, on the other hand, is not necessarily beautiful, unique, or created by the greatest composers of all time…but it sure is charming!
Classical music, by its very nature, sounds fuller because it’s more melodic. Its beats break easily, are more distinguishable, and are less frequent. (A good example of this is Handel’s “Fur Elise”. The tempo of this piece is fast – more like a jittery meter, which breaks up the monotony.) Renaissance music, by contrast, sounds fuller because it has a much faster beat, is distinguishable, and utilizes many repeat phrases (or motifs) in order to keep things moving.
Now, I’d like to compare the two styles of music in order to answer the question, “Why does renaissance music sound fuller than medieval music?” Medieval music tends to have a lot of treble clef notes (the notes that ring in the mouth when you blow your mouthpiece). Renaissance music tends to have very few treble clefs. Because it tends to be louder, Renaissance music also tends to be more energetic. This is one of the reasons why “Isolde” from Handel’s “Water Music” seems so energetic, even though it’s not really melodic – it just moves you.
Another difference between medieval music and renaissance music is the rhythm. In medieval music, the main beat is always on the high note, while in renaissance music it’s on the low E note. This difference also causes the Renaissance music to have a much more lively quality. It might be because the beat in medieval music is always on the high E note and because that note is easier for the hand to strike, it also tends to be easier to distinguish from the lower tones in classical music.
The other main difference between medieval music and the renaissance is instrumentation. In medieval music, instruments such as the lute, the mandore, the bass, the guitar etc. are very uncommon. While they’re not often heard nowadays, they were an integral part of medieval music and Renaissance instrumentation, being an important part of creating the mood and atmosphere.
Also, medieval music tends to be very loud, with instruments being played at full volume. Renaissance music on the other hand, is quieter, with most instruments being played at half-voice level or lower. This is because, as previously mentioned, Renaissance music is more energetic and less loud – this is one of the main reasons why it can be more tonal and richer in tone.
Another reason as to why does renaissance music sound fuller than medieval music is the tunefulness of the piece. Medieval instruments tend to have sharp, harsh notes, whereas Renaissance instruments tend to have a mellow and brighter tone. Also, instruments used in medieval music such as the lute may have had strings made of gold or silver rather than just wood. Renaissance instruments, on the other hand, are made from various plastic materials including earthen and terracotta. The wood may also be different, as wooden instruments were generally lighter and not as durable as their metal counterparts.
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