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An Intro to the Baroque | Monday, September 28, 2020

By Mike Dee
Activity One: Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The baroque period presented many significant changes in music, from the introduction of the concerto and the sonata to a new reliance on polyphony. (To learn more about polyphony, check out last week’s video with Connor!) To better understand polyphony, try listening to songs that have multiple melody lines. 

Let’s start with a baroque piece, Bach’s Invention in F Major, BWV 779. Try to listen to the higher melody, then the lower melody.  Listen Now!

This style has stayed with us throughout history, like in Guns ‘N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine." Listen to the opening guitar riff. Before you know it, another (lower) melody has been introduced (at 0:16), just like in the Bach invention! Listen Now!

Can you think of any other pieces or songs that have more than one melody, like these do?

Activity Two: Wednesday, September 30, 2020

In the Barbara Strozzi piece, we heard that she replaced the harpsichord in the orchestra with a harp. Both instruments produce sound by strings being plucked, but the harp skips the keyboard and allows the player to pluck the strings directly.

Do you think any of our current orchestral instruments may one day be replaced with something similar but new?

Draw, write, or tell a friend about what you think that new instrument might be. What does it look like? What does it sound like? What similarities does it have with other instruments? Does it borrow from any other instruments, like how the modern piano takes its keyboard from the harpsichord?

Activity Three: Thursday, October 1, 2020

Jan Miense Molenaer, Familie portret van Jan Miense Molenaer (Family portrait of Jan Miense Molenaer), c. 1635, oil on panel.

Music wasn’t the only thing changing in the baroque period; art was, too! Baroque art is often defined by an emphasis on exaggerated motion, clear details, and dramatic contrasts. Baroque music follows a similar pattern: moving melodies (as we heard in the video); ornaments (little decorations like trills and turns); and dramatic contrasts (dynamic changes, virtuosic solos versus an orchestral accompaniment, etc.).

Think about music that you enjoy listening to. What features have you also seen in other formats? Does it match up with a painting or a photograph? Are there dance moves that make sense with it? Does it have the same mood as your favorite movie? 

Activity Four: Friday, October 2, 2020

Mike’s next video will be an introduction to the classical period. In preparation, listen to the following pieces. Based on what you know so far about baroque music, can you tell which pieces belong to which time period?


Take a listen

Test Yourself