The word Renaissance literally means rebirth and it refers to how this era seemed to spring from the earlier Dark and Middle Ages with renewed spirit and restored interest in the classical Greek and Roman Civilizations. In reality it did not leap forth like Minerva from the head of Zeus, it evolved from changes introduced in the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages were a time of turmoil that emerged from the fragmented society that survived the fall of the Roman Empire and ended with the birth of the Renaissance. It roughly encompasses the start if the second millennium and runs to the mid to late 1400s. It too was a time of turmoil but unlike the earlier Dark Ages and its almost tribal cultures, the Middle Ages saw the centralization of power go to the Church and the Feudal Governance system.
The Renaissance Period saw the increasing breakup of that society and its attendant modes of thought. The strict rule of the earlier times was replaced by a more open mode of thought that challenged the concept that the center of knowledge was the Pope and the Church. Papal decisions were questioned, and at times found unsound. The rising middle class made feudal government in the hands of a few nobles over a static lower class of serfs impossible. . Never the less, there is no single event that made a clear line of demarcation for; like all of history itself, the world did not stop turning to let humanity catch up. Time marched on, and humanity changes in stages. Some innovations, shifts in perception, religion and society do have clear events that brought them about.
One of these is when Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany and started the Protestant Movement. Other changes took place more gradually as schools of thought developed and contributed to each other. Never the less, with the accuracy of hindsight we can see a clear difference between the social restraints and assumptions of the Early Middle Ages and high achievements of the Renaissance as well as the steady progression and growth that brought them about. . The advent of new way of thinking brought about by the High Renaissance also expanded the way people looked at and explored everything from buildings to music and art.
The contributions of mathematical thinkers like Pythagoras added to the understanding of musical structure. Geometric constructs allowed the development of perspective, depth and greater feeling in art. Geometry also played a part in architecture as well and supporting arches leaned upon each other, eliminating interior support and creating interior spaces that had formerly been impossible. This may have been what inspired the great sculptors of the time to create works of art that could be view from any angle.
The Renaissance was a time when the whole amalgam of thought truly exceeded the sum of its parts. Like the system of interdependent arches that permitted the creation of open interior space; the interdependent inventions, creations and discoveries permitted the creation of a society wide span of intellectual space that further encouraged the forward motion of humankind. .
The Middle Ages:
The ancient Greek and Romans, put human beings in center stage and humanistic values in society, art and culture inspired the Renaissance classicism. Culture and civilization was moving further and further from centralist domination by the Roman Church and the feudal system. The Renaissance period saw the birth of secular humanism, the explorations Columbus, Vasco de Gamma, Magellan, and the Protestant Revolution instigated by Martin Luther. Changes came to education, and with the evolution of the printing press and moveable type, music and books became more widely available. .
- Advancements in Architecture included:
- Italian palaces or Palazzi replaced the defensive castles
- Brunelleschi invented “hoists” enabling heavier building materials
- A system of arches that leaned on each other instead of internal supports
- Inventions included:
- The printing press
- The compass
- Gun powder
- Advancements in Science included:
- Andreas Vesalius’ dissections led to a greater understanding of the human body
- Leonardo da Vinci’s combination of art, science and invention. .
Secular Humanism had its origins in the study of the Greek and Roman classical writing of the past. Never the less the manner in which it brought them forward encouraged curiosity and experimentation. This willingness to employ investigation, objective reasoning impartial questioning and most importantly the acceptance of the results moved science forward in a way that had not been possible in the centralist dominated preceding ages. Nicholaus Copernicus was a forward thinker who was influenced by secular humanism and its classic roots. , .
The University Education available at the University in Padua furthered Scolastic thinking. Great scholars such as Copernicus, Galileo and William Harvey all learned and contributed to the center.
One of the great movements of the time was Protestant Movement. Very few movements can set that particular instance when society wakes up to a new way of thinking however, this is not true about the Protestant Movement. Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany and started society and religion down a new path. Of course, people had realized that the system of buying absolution was wrong and the Church was treating people unfairly, but Martin Luther quite literally nailed to the wall with his Ninety-Five Theses. . .
Renaissance Art and Music:
Art in the Renaissance saw a number of advancements including the creation of the first oil paints by Jan Van Eyck that allowed more realistic and vibrant colors than had ever been possible before. Another major shift was how geometry was used in paintings to lift the subjects from the flat backgrounds of earlier periods to realistic backgrounds that used perspective to create a three dimensional effect with depth and distance. Artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, benefited by the advancement of scientific, mathematical and geometrical innovations.
Sculpture achieved a new realism, again the iconic flat style was abandoned for pieces that could be viewed from all angles; the emotional flatness of the earlier eras gave way to subjects who not only looked more real they expressed real emotion as well.
Math and science found its way into music as well. Pythagoras created a series of ratios based on sound. He discovered that the more complex the mathematical ratio between two vibrating bodies the more complex & dissonant the relationship between the sounds they created. This led to an appreciation of the triad tonal harmonic system and homophony. In homophonic texture, there is a foreground the thematic melody; a middle ground the base line; and a background the inner voices. The High Renaissance Style is fluid, generally lacking in sharp rhythmic edge, and is characterized by smooth conjunct, carefully controlled polyphony with occasional uses of homophony. . [ Sequences 1 through 4 of Music as a Mirror] Part of the change brought about in the transition from the Roman Catholic dominated society to a more secular civilization was how that society viewed music. The new humanistic culture saw music as more than just an adornment of sacred ritual; they saw it as an independent moral entity that embodied the order, truth and beauty of the cosmos. [ Sequences 1 through 4 of Music as a Mirror].
The advent of new way of thinking brought about by the High Renaissance also expanded the way people looked at and explored music as well. Pythagoras created a series of ratios based on sound. He discovered that the more complex the mathematical ratio between two vibrating bodies the more complex & dissonant the relationship between the sounds they created. This led to an appreciation of the triad tonal harmonic system and homophony. In homophonic texture, there is a foreground the thematic melody; a middle ground the base line; and a background the inner voices. The High Renaissance Style is fluid, generally lacking in sharp rhythmic edge, and is characterized by smooth conjunct, carefully controlled polyphony with occasional uses of homophony. . [ Sequences 1 through 4 of Music as a Mirror]
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