It’s time to move from the sacred music heard in churches and cathedrals to the secular music performed for entertainment at court. Though there were many kinds of secular pieces, we’re going to focus on the genre that became the most popular by the end of the Renaissance, the madrigal.The madrigal not only surpassed the other genres of secular vocal music of the day in popularity, it also contributed to the development of opera in the early Baroque. We’ll learn first about the madrigal in its country of origin: Italy. A later reading assignment will discuss the evolution of the madrigal in England, where the genre changed to suite English tastes.
Read this article on Italian Madrigal. Please read the “Background” section carefully. You can skim through the section on composers until you reach the last paragraph that deals with late Renaissance composers. That last paragraph deals with one of the composers we’ll study in more detail—Claudio Monterverdi—so give that paragraph a careful read. Then finish this reading off by reading “Texture” and “Text” in the section on “Musical Style.”