Essay about Social Context of Italian Madrigals

2682 Words11 Pages
Social Context of 16th-century Italian Madrigals

In the 16th-century, Italy influenced the Renaissance music throughout Western Europe.

The most influential musical genre was the Italian madrigal, and “about 1,200 madrigal

volumes. . . were printed between 1520 and 1630”.1

of the madrigal, but the genre contains elements of the frottola, ballata, chanson, and

Musicologists debate about the exact origins

Madrigals were mostly secular songs that were primarily intended to be performed by

amateur musicians.3

the singers' own enjoyment. There were four primary performance settings. The most prominent

setting was social gatherings for the upper middle class and nobility where the guests performed

…show more content…
Their social gatherings often emphasized these two values that influenced madrigal

subjects to discuss topics such as love, politics, and society. Madrigals, therefore, were

considered sophisticated entertainment and became crucial to the traditional Italian party.16

The subject matter of Italian madrigals evolved a lot between 1500 and 1600. The

evolution was directly related to the social context in which madrigals were composed and

performed. Madrigal texts were poesia per musica (lit. poetry for music).17

the words of Petrarch and his contemporaries and were rather serious in nature. As the madrigal

evolved with society, however, people sought madrigals with lighter subject matter and more

relevant poetry. As a result, composers turned to contemporary poets, resulting in genres such as

the pastoral, spiritual, and arioso madrigals. By the 1570s, composers most often set the pastoral

verses of Battista Guarini and other 16th-century authors.18

madrigal were particularly popular in the late 16th-century. Spiritual madrigals, or “madrigal

spiritulae”, were religious in text, but they were not strophic and the music was very similar, if

not identical, to many secular madrigals. The spiritual madrigal was sung for entertainment, not

in religious settings, but its subject matter reflected the most common religious ideals of the

More about Essay about Social Context of Italian Madrigals

Get Access