Today we are delving into the
Baroque era, which is a European musical time period that spans roughly
between 1600 and 1750 AD.
Notable composers include Vivaldi,
Handel, Telemann, and Bach.
Some interesting instruments used are the modern string instruments
of today, the hurdy-gurdy (or
wheel fiddle), the harpsichord, and recorder.
dynamics was used extensively in Baroque music. Terraced
dynamics just means that the volume of the music changed abruptly
from soft to loud without gradual crescendos or decrescendos. A
good example of this is Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No 2.
It starts loud, gets soft, gets loud, etc. without gradual changes.
of the most well-known Baroque pieces is Canon in D by
Pachelbel. What you may not know is that it was written as
Canon and Gigue in D. A gigue is a dance, so it is more upbeat
than the canon. Here is a very well done version of the canon, but
make sure you listen to it all the way to the end so that you can
hear the gigue, which starts around 5:02. It is a beautiful part of
the piece and is hardly ever heard.
great instrument of the Baroque area is the harpsichord,
which is a string instrument. It is like a piano in that is has a
keyboard, but instead of hammers that hit the strings there are
little quills that pluck the strings. This makes dynamics difficult
and, in turn, harpsichords can only play two dynamics: loud (forte)
and quiet (piano). This is one of the reasons terraced
dynamics was used heavily. This is a dramatic piece written by
Scarlatti for harpsichord. Amazing! In this video she is playing a
large harpsichord and is standing, but there are also harpsichords
you sit at to play just like the piano.
fun instrument of the time is the hurdy-gurdy, or the wheel
fiddle. This was played by cranking a wheel and using
buttons to make the notes, similar to an accordion. The faster
you crank, the louder you play. This is another instrument that could
only really be played loud or soft and, in turn, played in terraced
dynamics. This video shows a man playing a hurdy-gurdy while wearing
time appropriate clothing. It is very interesting to see this
instrument up close and watch him play it.
to Wikipedia, “Baroque Art is a period of artistic style
that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to
produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture,
painting, architecture, literature, dance, and music. The style began
around 1600 in Rome, Italy and spread to most of Europe.” Notable
artists include Peter Paul Rubens, Bernini, Rembrant, and
was a time of opulence and extravaganza, as seen in many of the
Baroque palaces of the time. Examples include the Augustus
It is seen in paintings of the time as well, which exaggerated
lighting and intense emotions. Many
paintings were commissioned by wealthy Catholic families and, instead
of capturing life at the time, captured the faith and the power of
a composer and an artist. The best thing to do is find
biographical books at the library, listen to the music, and look at
the art they created.
to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. As
you listen to each season, create a picture to depict the season.
Try to listen to the music for some ideas to put in your picture. In
Spring, you may hear birds chirping. In the Winter, you may hear the
chattering of teeth. Be creative with the music and your art. With
my kids, we added some science to the mix and we talked about
deciduous trees and how they change throughout the year. We then
drew the same picture, but in each season. For spring, there
were flowers in the tree. In the fall, the leaves had changed
colors. This is a way to have music, art, and science come together
in one lesson. This
YouTube video has
the entire Four Seasons with clickable links to each movement so you
can easily skip ahead when you are ready to hear the next season.
the Baroque art style, artists were very dramatic in their use of
light. Have your students check out portraits
of Rembrant and Vermeer.
Let your students create their own self-portraits using
pastels, charcoal, or pencil to enhance the light and emotion. (This
would work well for older students, grades 3rd/4th and up)
fun with the Baroque Period! I would love to see what you come
up with – please share!