Research Points


Rp1: Renaissance madrigals

For this Research point I was asked to compare two of the pieces from project 1, and their composers.

I chose to analyse the lives and works of Orlando di Lasso and Claudio Monteverdi, due to their pieces being quite contrasting.

Orlando di Lasso, who lived from 1532 to 1594, was born in todays’ Belgium and is declared as “the most published composer of the sixteenth century. He is mostly known for his work with different genres and styles as well as his ability to reflect his compositions onto the text being sung. 1

Claudio Monteverdi, was born 35 years later in 1567 in Cremona, Italy. He is one of a few musicians from this time whose pieces are still being played today. Monteverdi had an important influence in the music history as his composition “L’Orfeo” (which tells the Greek story of Orpheus and Eurydice) is officially seen as the very first opera. 2

Unlike Monteverdi, Lasso didn’t grow up in a musical family, nevertheless, he participated in several choirs from a very young age, were his talent for singing and a beautiful voice was discovered. Di Lasso traveled a lot, stayed in a few places as he started to write his own music. His pieces where mostly religious, and even though he wrote his first piece with only 15 years (music to a poem from Giovanni Battista, his first composition was only published at the age of 23. Within the following 40 years his music spread rapidly and was often heard. 1

Monteverdi’s parents were both musicians, so he was introduced to music when he was still very young.  He already wrote and published his first pieces before he became 15. His style was always traditionally based, but all of his pieces also had a modern side, which makes some of them sound like they were contemporary pieces. He also experienced a lot with chromatic modulations and as already mentioned, Monteverdi was most known for the opera “L’Orfeo”, and therefore played an important part in the historic evolvement of music.2

Orlando Di Lasso’s piece “Matona, mi acara” is cheery sounding and addresses, due to it being a madrigal*, a non-religious subject. It sounds, in comparison to other pieces from this epoch, really modern. In my personal opinion it has similarities to a 19th/20th – century Christmas-choir piece. (Even though the content is about something completely different)

The piece I chose from Monteverdi (“Ah, Dolente Partita”) is slow paced and has a sad character as well as content. Unlike other pieces from Monteverdi I’ve heard so far this one seemed, as already mentioned in my listening log, rather monotonous. That, of course, may be in connection with the story its telling.

Surprisingly, neither of the pieces from the composers, that I’ve listened to reflect their styles. They even seem to be swapped.


*Madrigals are polyphonic pieces from the renaissance and early baroque, which usually have a non-religious content

1 Elridge-carney, J. (2001). Renaissance Reformation 1500-1600 – A biographical dictionary. 1st ed.     [ebook] Westport: Greenwood Press, pp. 227-228. Available at: [Accessed at: 21 May. 2019]

2 Bourne, J. (2013). The Oxford Dictionary of Music. 6th ed. [ebook] Oxford: Oxford University Press. Available at: [Accessed 21 May.2019]

Rp2: The Mass

For his research point I was asked to write a short article about the connection of music with religion, describing the mass in detail. In addition to that, I was advised to listen to a few masses myself and add a conclusion at the end. The masses can be found in my Listening Log for part 1 of this course. In addition to the two masses listed I’ve listened to:

  • “The armed man”, – by Karl Jenkins, a rather unusual form of a mass, telling a story about a war, written in 1999. Jenkins explores a high variety of different styles, and often creates sound-colours referring to noises and sounds, which resemble a battlefield. The mass consists of around 10 parts, whereas most of them are not parts of usual masses.
  • “Missa O quam gloriosum est Regnum”,-by Tomas Luis de Victoria. For the time it was written in (end of the 16th century) it sounded really modern to me. He often uses imitative motifs, whereas all of them keep the same character throughout.
  • “Mass a 4”,- by William Byrd, Written in a polyphonic style (as it was usual for that time) , generally a sad and dramatic sounding mass. As the title already indicates, only four voices are being used for it (Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass). No instruments are used
  • “Mass,-by Igor Stravinsky; This mass I found difficult to listen to, due to the generally dissonant harmonies Stravinsky used. Nevertheless, one could still recognise the contrasting dynamics and playing techniques. A choir as well as a full orchestra are being used.
  • “Messe de nostre dame”,- by Guillaume de Machaut; The most unusual thing what I found about this mass is, that the second part “Kyrie” is the longest one. With ALL other masses I’ve listened to so far, it was always the following part “Credo”, which took up most of the mass. No instruments are used, the voices are always singing solo, therefore no choir is used either.
  • “Mass in e-minor”,- Anton Bruckner; As I myself already had the opportunity to sing some of Bruckner’s motets, which I always really enjoyed; I was rather surprised that I didn’t find this mass as entertaining. Generally it is sadder sounding, but often changes its character. Both, choir and orchestra are being used.
  • “Mass in E-flat-major,-Franz Schubert; With the length of about an hour, this mass counts to one of the longer ones I’ve listened to. Schubert used many different techniques and styles throughout the piece, the changes in tempo are fluently, and therefore barely recognisable. Generally, he creates a good balance between orchestral and choral parts. I enjoyed listening to it.

I’ve furthermore listened to several other Masses from Bach and Beethoven’s only mass “Missa Solemnis”, which were highly entertaining as well.

Music and religion  

In the early starts of Christianity, the first connection with music were sung psalms, this idea was taken from the Jewish services. It was conducted by a pastor and the community in a certain rhythm, this form was also called “chanting”.

In the middle ages, the Gregorian Chant (named after pope Gregor, who lived around 600 A.D) developed through the monasticism; New prayers and psalms where sung in services or when the monks where meditating. The sequences of chants such as “Kyrie”, “Gloria”, “Credo”, “Sanctus” , which are still an important part of modern masses, also developed in that time.

Within the decades and centuries after that, several different trends of sacred music was created. Some of it, didn’t find any use in services but nevertheless had religious content. Therefore, well known musicians, such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, or Ludwig van Beethoven are known for religious pieces, which where payed in a concert hall rather than a church.

Today there’s a huge variety of music, which is connected with Religion. The modern version of religious music outside the church covers a massive amount of different genres; from classic, pop, Hip-hop and even metal music. Especially Gospel music from America is popular among young adults.1

The mass

A mass can generally be described as the central service of the Catholic Church with a defined liturgy (order of worship). The, with a few exceptions, still existing form emerged in the 5th century. Up until the 20th century, the language of every mass was Latin, only the Second Vatican Council (1964 – 1969) allowed the Masses to be in other languages.2

There are two main categories a Mass can be divided into: The Ordinary of the Mass and the Proper. The latter always changes, according to the occasion, whereas the Ordinary always has the same sequence of the same text set to music. The separate parts of the Ordinary are: Kyrie (text: Kyrie eleison), Gloria (text: Gloria in excelsis Deo), Credo (text: Credo in unum Deum), Sanctus (text: Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus) and Agnus Dei ( text: Agnus Dei). 2,3

One special form of a mass is the so called „Requiem “. The name “Reqiuem” comes from the first word of the text “Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine (“eternal rest give them, Lord”). The major difference between an Ordinary Mass and a Requiem is, that several texts phrases from the Oratorium and Proprium are slightly different. Gloria and Credo are taken out, therefore follows the sequence “ Dies irae” (Day of wrath) after the “kyrie” The sequence was defined in 1570. One exception of a Requiem is “Ein deutsches Reqiem” (=“A German Requiem”), because it’s text is from German biblical texts instead of the Roman ones. 2, 4

For about 1000 years, up until the the 11th century masses where written for just one voice for the Gregorian chant. With the appearance of polyphonic compositions for two or more voices was developing, due to the composers wanting to set “the word of God” to music in a new, more creative way. At the beginning of the 15th century the “Sanctus “and “Agnus” parts where usually written for the same musical arrangement. The arrangements for the “Gloria” and “Credo” followed at the end of the 15th century. 3,4

When polyphony was fully developed in the 16th century, certain settings elaborated, for example those of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and William Byrd. It was only two centuries later, that orchestral arrangements became popular for masses, which also brought them into concert halls. This was hardly working against the development of evolving pure instrumental music, especially because for a mass, it was always important that the text stands in the foreground. The instruments should only be used as an accompaniment. Nevertheless, a few exceptions still exist, for example masses which are just instrumental.3


1 Musik und Religion – Musik im Christentum. (2019). 1st ed. [PDF] pp.1,2. Available at: [Accessed 3 Jun. 2019].

2 Heuköufer, N. (2014) Musik Abi – Kompaktwissen Oberstufe. 5th edition. Berlin: Cornelsen Scriptor, pp. 204 – 207

3 Livingstone, E. (2014) The concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. [e-book] Oxford: Oxford university press. Available at: [Accessed 29 May. 2019]

4 Knapp, W. and Peschl, W. (2005) Wege zur Musik – Band 1. Esslingen: Helbling, pp. 183, 189