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William Byrd

In: Film and Music

Submitted By lively24
Words 2957
Pages 12

Andrea Campbell
MUSC 311
Dr. Hugo
Oct. 19 2012

Introduction William Byrd was one of the best English composers during the renaissance era. He is one of the greatest known Elizabethan composers of scared music and one of the main writers for the virginals. He wrote many different forms of music that were popular in England at the time. Some of these include sacred and secular polyphony, keyboard, and consort music. He was known for taking main music forms and giving them his own identity. Since Byrd lived for a long time, he encountered many forms of vocal and instrumental music in which he gave his own style. Many of his pieces reflect the emotions he was feeling during a certain time. The biography of William Byrd can be seen through his early life, personal life, professional life, and of course through his publications.
Biographical and Background of William Byrd William Byrd was born in 1543 in Lincoln, London. He was the son of Thomas Byrd. He had four sisters and two older brothers, Symond and John, who were both choristers at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Throughout his younger years, Byrd was greatly influenced by music. He grew up in the Chapel Royal where he studied music with Thomas Tallis. After Byrd spent many years at the Chapel Royal, he continued to stay with Tallis as his assistant. Byrd had a love for composing and stringed instruments. In 1563 he was appointed organist and master of the choristers at the Lincoln Cathedral. Seven years later he was sworn in as a Gentleman in the Chapel Royal, while retaining his job at the Lincoln Cathedral until 1572. After 1572, he remained with Tallis as organist of the Chapel Royal. Though Byrd had an interesting upbringing in the Chapel Royal and Lincoln Cathedral, that did not stop him from having a personal life. In 1568 he married Julian Birley, who came from a Lincolnshire family. They had a long lasting marriage and together had seven children. The two had their first child named Christopher and then a daughter Elizabeth. Both of them were baptized at the Lincoln Cathedral. Throughout his entire life Byrd remained a devout catholic. This however became a problem during the English reformation. Around 1577 laws of recusancy were starting to be enforced. Julian Byrd refused to go to Anglican services and was charged with recusancy and cited to Harlington, Middlesex. His family was said to be excommunicated and known as recusants. Later he was accused of seducing people back in the Catholic cause. Byrds expression could be seen in his motets during the Catholic cause. He composed about 50 motets between 1575 and 1591. In 1593 Byrd decided to move his family away from all the rules of the recusancy and they resided in Stondon Massey, Essex. He and his wife remained in Stondon Massey until Julian’s death in 1606. Even though Byrd had many trials in his life because recusancy laws, he had a very successful professional life. Soon after he was appointed organist of the Chapel Royal he became a business partner with his mentor Thomas Tallis in 1575. The two were granted several leases and license to print music paper and continued to print music paper for 21 years. Through this, the two produced a publication under the name of Cantiones que ab argumento sacrae vocantur. This piece was dedicated to the Queen and consisted of 34 motets. As Byrd composed some of the Cantiones each of his contribution is very different from one another. He set these into three different sections with each of them beginning in a semichoir passage. His compositions in the Cantiones showed the influence of Alfonso Ferrabosco, whom Byrd studied under. The compositions that Byrd wrote were leading more toward motets of the 1580s. Sadly, the Cantiones failed financially and in 1577 Byrd and Tallis had to petition the Queen to give them annuity in the form of a lease. The petition was successful and they remained on the lease for the rest of their 21 years. Byrd was successful in writing Cantiones dedicated to the Queen but he is also known for many other compositions as well. While serving in the Lincoln Cathedral Byrd composed several masses. His masses were described as four part and traditional for the Catholic Church. In 1588 Byrd also published two collections of English songs. These collections contain three to six voice parts and consisted mainly of adapted consort songs. Around 1589 thirty-seven of his motets were published in two volumes of Cantiones sacrae. After the death of his friend Tallis, it is said that his motets between 1589 through 1591 have a pathetic expression. Instrumental music was also on the rise during the 1580s. During this decade Byrd got to compose 42 keyboard pieces completing the book, My Ladye Nevells Booke. These collections show Byrd’s mastery in keyboard form and many different varieties. Perhaps one of his greatest publications is the Gradualia, which was published in 1605 and 1607. Here he has two cycles of motets containing 109 items. Many of these pieces were written during the time of recusancy laws, which allowed Byrd to express that in his motets. Since Byrd remained Catholic in a Protestant country, many of these pieces were written to be preformed in household instead of in public. Byrd had wonderful upbringing in the Chapel Royal, a personal life, and a successful professional life. Sadly, William Byrd died on July 4 in 1623 in his home at Stondon Massey, Essex. Howard Brown said that he was the last great composer on the rich tradition of Catholic polyphony in Britain and the first of the “Golden Age of Music.” One of the most interesting things about him was how he was able to take a main musical form and give it his own style and identity. Though his reputation was known in England, because he gave his music his own style it was not influential. However, his work through the Chapel Royal, motets, and publications make him one of the greatest composers during the renaissance time.
Biography of Mass for Four Voices Mass for Four voices is one of three setting for the Mass Ordinary. William Byrd wrote the Mass in London in 1592, which was during the time of the Reformation. During the Reformation, Catholic services were illegal and many Catholic services were held in people’s homes. Since this was the case, the Mass was never preformed in a proper church until the nineteenth century. Though this mass was published during Byrd’s lifetime, it never had a title page because no publisher would dare publish this work under the name “mass,” for it was too great of a risk. Byrd’s Masses are considered to be of the highest quality of the time and is constructed on an extremely developed scheme. (Add More).
Musical Style in Mass for Four Voices Throughout the sixteenth century, Byrd was regarded as the front rank composers in England and was known for his musical styles for sacred and secular music. One of his most popular pieces is his Mass for Four Voices. This mass was written in ABA form and was written four parts, including Cantus (Soprano), Altus, Tenor, and Bassus. It was also polyphonic and was sung a cappella. During the time period, Cantus was the name given to the topmost voice. The tonality of this Mass is mainly Aeolian, with few exceptions of sharpened leading tones. Though the Mass was originally written in g minor, most editions today are written in f minor. As most masses are, this Mass is split up into six sections with the names of Kyrie Eleison, Gloria in Excelsis, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei. The Kyrie Eleison starts out with imitative counterpoint. The alto leads and the cantus repeats a 5th higher with alteration to the melody. The tenor starts out repeating the soprano like a cannon, but then veers away toward the melody of the alto. The bass is delayed by a bar to allow the melody to come back to the tonic. This can be seen in figure 1. This mass can best be described as dense and thick because there are many voices singing different melodies.
Melodies in Mass for Four Voices Byrd’s melodies in Mass for Four Voices can be describes as syllabic.()()()() His melodies often consisted of stepwise motion. In the Kyrie Eleison, a new part begins with the text, “Christe eleison,” in which the melody is descending stepwise and is treated as imitation. This can be seen in figure 123121. The four parts are freely overlapping which is a prime example of polyphonic music during this era. Since the Db starts to become D natural this suggest that the key is changing to Bb major. Byrd was known for using modulations to the relative major, which he is doing here. The phrase then ends in a perfect cadence in the dominant C. Another phrase where stepwise motion can be seen is where the text says, “propter magnam gloriam.” The Cantus and Alto are paired homophonically and the Tenor and Bass imitate a descending scale. The same notes repeating emphasize the “glory.” (ADD MORE)
Harmonies in Mass for Four Voices Throughout the mass, Byrd uses many different types of harmony such as modal, tonal, major and minor keys. Many of the notes that Byrd composed produced an effect known as false relation. False relation occurs when two notes are chromatically related are heard in close succession. The note is usually the 3rd of the chord and it will decide if the chord is major or minor. This can be seen in figure1231212312. The cadence at the end of this bar shows this chord pattern: V7b-i-V4-3-I. Since the Cantus carries the flattened A it makes the chord a minor i chord, but at the end of the phrase the A is naturalized making the final chord a major I chord. This is a prime example of false relation. One of the main tonalities of this mass is Aeolian mode. The Aeolian mode in the mass has been transposed twice, with two flats in the key signature. It was originally written in g minor but more copies today have it written in f minor. A lot of Byrd’s music was written in Aeolian mode and showed many characteristics. Andrews states that Byrd took the modal system for what it was and molded it for his own use by combining modal and diatonic systems. Tonal harmonies developed during the Renaissance era and Byrd was one of the composers to use tonality in his pieces. Tonality can really be heard at the end passages of “Gloria” and “Agnus Dei.” At the end of “Gloria,” the key is in f minor and it distributes a plagal cadence going from a iv chord to a major I chord. At the end of “Agnus Dei,” the key is in f minor and is ending in an authentic cadence going from a V chord to a major I chord. These two cadences are primes examples of tonality and how Byrd expressed tonality in his music. Another type of harmony that Byrd used was his modulations between major and minor keys. In Mass for Four Voices, edited by Edmund Fellowes, the piece begins and ends in f minor. One of the sections that have the most modulations is the “Gloria in Excelsis.” The piece begins in f minor but then changes to the relative major Ab when the text says “Domine Deus, agnus dei filius partis.” The next section continues to be in Ab. Beginning at the word “Quoniam,” the key modulates to Eb major because the D’s are naturalized. The next section, which begins at the words “Jesu Christe,” modulates to C major. The “Gloria” section finally ends in its original key of f minor.
Relationship with text in Mass for Four Voices Byrd wrote Mass for Four Voices for the Catholics to worship God during mass. Since he created the mass for sacred purposes, most of the text reflects Catholic practices and ideas. Many people believe that a Mass is a prayer for God to hear. As all masses were, this Mass is written in Latin. In the section “Gloria in Excelsis,” the text “Domine Deus, agnus dei filius patris” actually means “Lord God, lamb of God, Son of the Father,” according to Griffin. The alto, tenor, and bass part start off in canon. The use of melisma is used on the word “Deus” and again in “filius patris.” Melisma is where a single syllable of text is sung while moving between several different notes. This can be seen in figure 4545454. The next three part section has the text “Qui tollis peccata mundi miserere nobis,” which means “Thou that takest away the sins of the world have mercy upon us.” Another melisma can be seen on the word “mundi,” and the dotted rhythm makes the phrase out to be like a dance. The section ends on the word “miserere” in a descending scale. The last three voice section is where the text says, “Qui tollis mundi suscipe deprecationem nostram,” meaning “O thou that takest away the sins of the world receive our prayer.” The word “Nostram” is seen here with melismatic setting. Here Byrd is asking for God to hear his prayer and is pleaing for mercy. The number three is important in any religion. In Catholicism it is important because three represents the doctrine of the Holy Trinity- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is why Byrd made these sections three voiced and the text speaks of the Holy Trinity. Since Byrd was a Catholic composer who was writing for the Anglican church, Byrd was able to express his beliefs and worship God based on his own doctrinal beliefs.
Rhythms in Mass for Four Voices Byrd used many different of rhythms throughout his mass. Andrews stated that Byrd handled the complexity of rhythms with maturity and that he can conflict rhythms without sacrificing clarity, coherence, and aesthetic integrity. One of the first rhythmic challenges that can be seen in the Mass, is through a plainchant at the beginning of “Gloria in Excelsis.” The plainchant was meant for the priest to sing and the rhythmic interpretation was left for him to decide. Throughout the mass Byrd used suspensions, which is something that was not very common during the Renaissance era. According to Andrews, each suspension from the sixteenth century should be tied over from the preparation, which is something that occurs sporadically in Byrd’s music. Each of his suspensions is prepared preceding the actual suspension and then they are resolved. Sometimes his suspensions overlap each other so that the resolved note ends up being the preparation for the next suspension. See here in figure 342243233244.
Special Features in Mass for Four Voices One of the special features that Byrd was and is still know for today is his work with vocal polyphony. In his Mass for Four Voices, his work of vocal polyphony can be seen extremely well.
Borrowed Materials in Mass for Four Voices Any borrowed material in Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices comes from the composer of Taverner. The “Sanctus” of Byrd’s Mass, is closely modeled to the “Sanctus” of Taverner’s Mean Mass for five voices. The “Sanctus” in the Mean Mass has four part sections, which develops the head theme that opens in all four movements. In the halved note values, there is an expansion of the upward scale line from a fifth to a sixth to a seventh chord. Byrd shows the same note values and chords in “Sanctus” of Mass for Four Voices. See in figure 23432423.

How Byrd Advanced Musical Style from Mass for Four Voices One of the greatest composers during the Elizabethan era that was older that Byrd was Palestrina. Palestrina was known for his own masses and motets. Byrd liked the music of Palestrina and sought to advance his own musical style from that of Palestrina’s. He created many new and innovative ideas from Palestrina’s masses. Palestrina was viewed as a refined composer whose music represented perfection. Byrd music was often viewed as freer. One of the things that they both used in their masses was polyphony, though Byrd often showed a different type of polyphony.
Reflections and Conclusions What Byrd was trying to accomplish by writing Mass for Four Voices was to simply worship God. He was not able publish this mass or perform it in a Catholic church because of the Reformation. However, since many Catholics met in private homes to have church services, Byrd performed his mass there and was able to accomplish what he wrote the mass for. This piece can stand against other pieces of its time because of Byrds 232323.

Sources Cited
Andrews, H.K. The Technique of Byrd’s Vocal Polyphony. Oxford University Press. 1st ed. 1966.
Brown, Howard. Music in the Renaissance (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1976), 283.
Fellowes, Edmund. William Byrd. Oxford University Press, 2nd ed.
Kerman, Joseph “Music and Politics: The Case of William Byrd,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 144, No. 3 (2000): 275-287, (accessed October 17, 2012).
Kerman, Joseph, “The Masses and Motets of William Byrd,” Journal of the American Musicological Society Vol. 38, No. 1 (1985), 162-169,

[ 1 ]. Joseph Kerman, “Music and Politics: The Case of William Byrd,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 144, no. 3 (September 2000): 275-287, (accessed October 17, 2012).
[ 2 ]. Ibid, .
[ 3 ]. Brown, .
[ 4 ]. Kerman, .
[ 5 ]. Oliver Strunk, The Renaissance (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1955), 137..
[ 6 ]. Brown, .

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...T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, Prufrock personifies the feelings that people of that time had. Prufrock expresses the chaos and hopelessness that the people felt after the war. He is a pessimistic and unconfident man who lives in fear. Modernists sought to reflect the modern world and culture, while imagists tried to give readers a clear image of what they were trying to express in their writings. Imagists used clear and sharp language to produce images in readers’ minds. They were strongly against sentimentality, and they did not follow the traditional forms of poetry. Imagism was also strongly influenced by traditional Chinese and Japanese poetry. “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams is an example of imagist poetry. In this poem, Williams manages to convey a sharp image of a red wheelbarrow that is glazed with rain, next to the white chickens. He uses this simple image to say that life depends on...

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The Red Wheelbarrow

...The Red Wheelbarrow so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens. -- William Carlos Williams (1923) To Paint a Picture Just as the opening line of William Carlos William’s 1923 poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” reads, “So much depends.” So much depends on the reader’s interpretation of this poem. How was the author intending his work to be read? One can argue that Williams wished his audience to paint a mental picture of the poem, and then draw their own conclusions based on the imagery contained therein. The poem, consisting of only sixteen words, follows a basic metrical structure. It consists of eight lines, which are broken into four verses. Each verse consists of a dimeter, followed by a monometer. At first reading, the student may want to read the two lines of each verse together as one. Reading the poem in this fashion does not bring attention to its individual parts. The student should focus on the lineation of the poem while reading it, and follow the metrical structure that is laid out. By slowing down and taking in the poem on line at a time, the reader will more easily be able to paint a mental picture of the poem. This seems to have been how the author intended the poem to be read. The imagery of “The Red Wheelbarrow” can be compared to that of a classic painting. The painting is easy on the eyes, nice to look at. If the viewer can picture himself inside the canvas setting, he may be able......

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Short Story Review "The Use of Force"

...example of a short story that includes such elements is William Carlos Williams’ “The Use of Force.” In this story, elements such as theme, background, symbolism, and image are utilized in a way to communicate the idea that there are two sides to every situation. In this short story, there appears to be an overall theme. William Carlos Williams seems to want to make the audience understand that there are usually two sides to every situation—in this case, for a little girl, a doctor’s visit is frightening and for a doctor, it is just another job. Williams demonstrated just how scared the little girl was throughout the story in many ways. In one instance, the mother reassured the little girl to not be afraid and that the doctor would not hurt her (Williams 80). In another instance, Williams writes, “As I moved my chair a little nearer suddenly with one catlike movement both her hands clawed instinctively for my eyes and she almost reached them too” (81). Williams uses the girl’s actions to further convey his message that she was frightened. It is easy to assume that a grown man having to deal with this would get frustrated. Williams chose to demonstrate the doctor’s irritation through his narration. “Look here, I said to the child, we’re going to look at your throat. You’re old enough to understand what I am saying. Will you open it now by yourself or shall we gave to open it for you” (Williams 81). William Carlos Williams used techniques such as the voice of a minor......

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