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The University of Southampton

MUSI2037 Love in the Renaissance: Chanson and Madrigal, 1500-1600

Module Overview

During the Renaissance, cultural practices associated with courtly ideology and material advances in printing technology contributed to a vast increase in ambitious musical settings of new kinds of love poetry. Composers applied an expanded range of expressive tools to musically chart contemporary understandings of the emotional and physical effects of love. This module examines the most prominent forms of secular vocal music during the century 1500-1600, the French chanson and the Italian madrigal. Emphasis is placed on changing musical styles, and on learning analytical techniques appropriate to early music; another main focus is the relationship of music to text. The course will also explore performance contexts and performing styles for this music. Repertories may include the “Parisian” chanson (Sermisy, Janequin) and later French song styles (musique mesurée, the air de cour); madrigals by Arcadelt, Rore, and later composers such as Wert and Marenzio; and the English adoption of Continental styles in the last decades of the sixteenth century.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • principal forms, techniques and styles of European secular music from the period 1500-1600
  • basic principles of Continental modal theory
Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • describe the principal characteristics of secular genres of the period 1500-1600
  • demonstrate aural recognition of important sixteenth-century styles
  • make a basic analysis of an unfamiliar piece of 16th-century secular music and communicate your findings in accurate descriptive prose


After a general introduction to the period and genres under consideration, the first two weeks of the module are devoted to developing students' understanding of modal counterpoint and the tonal construction of music in the period before common-practice harmony. Using sample works drawn from the repertory of Italian madrigals of the early 16th century, we cover cadence as a contrapuntal rather than harmonic event; the older 8-mode tonal system and new types of 12-mode system proposed by Renaissance music theorists; the application of modal theory to polyphony, including vocal ambitus, cleffing, and other modal indicators. Subsequent topics provide opportunities to apply newly acquired knowledge of Continental modal theory within different stylistic contexts, and to explore how counterpoint and tonality work within a broader palette of expressive techniques (including rhythm, texture, tessitura and other basic musical elements) to create sophisticated readings of secular love poetry in the vernacular. Topics may include:  Franco-Flemish polyphony and chansons of the 'Josquin generation'  The 'Parisian' chanson of the 1520s and 1530s  Venice and the early madrigal  The madrigal at mid-century and the birth of the seconda prattica  Currents in later sixteenth century chanson: France and the 'Netherlandish' chanson  Mannerism and the late madrigal  Performing contexts: courts, cities and academies

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include  Lectures  Discussion  Sharing of ideas and materials via Blackboard and other electronic resources Learning activities include  A wide range of reading (both texts and scores; certain texts and scores will be required reading)  Study of selected audio and video recordings  Completion of worksheets on analytical skills  Individual research  Use of online resources.

Completion of assessment task50
Preparation for scheduled sessions24
Wider reading or practice42
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Richard Freedman (2013). Music in the Renaissance. 

Howard Mayer Brown and Louise Stein (1999). Music in the Renaissance. 

Jerome Roche (1990). The Madrigal. 

Allan Atlas (1998). Renaissance Music. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 50%
Examination  (180 minutes) 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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