The term Baroque is used to describe the stylistic characteristics of music, art, and
architecture of the early 17th to mid 18th century. Derived from the Portuguese
word, meaning irregularly shaped pearl, Baroque perfectly describes the greatly
varying musical styles of compositions created between 1600 and 1750. Originally
used to emphasize the strangeness and extravagance of art, it has only been in the
present century that the term has been used to define this period of music history.
When compared to music of the earlier ages, Baroque composers were pioneers
of change, creating new, bold, compositional techniques that stand out as pivotal
moments in music history. Marked by elaborate ornamentation and dissonance,
composers focused on expressing the affection of human emotions such
as rage, sorrow, heroism, and joy. Adapting to idiomatic writing, the focus shifted
to composing for specific performers or soloists creating the first famous instrumental
and vocal virtuoso’s which brought the concerto and opera form to fame.
By the mid-1600’s the orchestra had grown in popularity after its humble beginnings as the “accompanist” for concerto soloists, opera, and vocal music. Although
imitative polyphony continued to remain fundamental to musical composition,
the creation of the concerto and opera inspired homophonic exploration to
become more common, featuring a solo melody line against an accompaniment
or basso continuo. The use of chromaticism deepened from being used as a tool to express emotions early in the era, to
governing harmony and developing major-minor tonality and the hierarchy of the relationships between the central triad and
chords by the end of the baroque era.