The history of choral music in the Western Classical tradition might be seen as a dialogue between sacred and secular art, between scripture and musical innovation, or between the human voice and other instruments. From the hypnotic unison singing of Gregorian chant, to the complex polychoral style of the Venetian school through to the secular cantatas of the 20th century, there is a dizzying wealth of music to discover. During the latter part of the medieval period, a style of vocal music called organum evolved out of Gregorian chant. With multiple, independent parts, this was arguably the first example of polyphonic vocal music in Europe, laying the groundwork for the choral music of the Renaissance era.
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Choral music , music sung by a choir with two or more voices assigned to each part. Choral music is necessarily polyphonal—i. It has a long history in European church music. Choral music ranks as one of several musical genres subject to misunderstanding because of false historical perspectives or misinterpretation caused by the confusion engendered by unsolved semantic problems. Choral, chorale , choir , and chorus stand in obvious relationship to one another and are in some respects used interchangeably when a body of singers , for example, is referred to as a choir, a chorus Latin noun derived from the Greek word choros , or a chorale, which properly is a Lutheran hymn tune. The definition of choral music has by circumstance and usage been forced to comprise a far wider area than a comparable definition of an instrumental genre. It is unusual, to say the least, to perform a symphony with only a single instrument to each part, even though the opposite has occasionally happened when a string quartet movement is played by the massed strings of an orchestra. Much music now performed by choirs, however, was originally intended for soloists; and, while the lack of historical authenticity may here be deplored, it is evident that a choral performance of a madrigal equivalent to an orchestral performance of a string quartet movement permits many amateur musicians to enjoy, as members of a team, music that might otherwise escape their knowledge. If a choral performance of genres for several solo voices, such as the madrigal, ballett, villanella, and part-song, results in a more neutral sound and a less personal intensity of expression, it is nevertheless true that the reverse sometimes offers unsuspected advantages, as when a work written for choir alone is performed by a group of soloists. In certain cases the work may take on a new and enhanced aspect because each strand of melody within the texture carries a personal rather than a group expression.
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The following is an outline of the history of Western classical music. Although "Western" and "classical" are inexact terms, they do name a reasonably coherent musical tradition that stretches from the Dark Ages to the present day. The descriptive texts will not delve deeply into matters of musical meaning or technique; the purpose of the outline is to give you a basic working familiarity with different periods and styles. Medieval History Plainchant through Machaut Western classical music history is traditionally understood as beginning with plainchant also called "Gregorian" chant , the vocal religious practice of the Roman Catholic Church. Plainchant was transmitted by memory until the early 9th century, when the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne arranged for it to be notated, and for standardized plainchant books to be distributed to churches and monasteries across Europe. Limited in pitch range and monophonic i.
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