Renaissance Improvisation


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Orpheus Music

Composer: Various

Arranger: Benjamin Thorn

Instrumentation: Various Combinations

Period/genre: Renaissance

Grade: Moderate

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A collection of *Renaissance* ground basses with sample melodies and advice as to how melodies can be improvised over them. Suitable both single players and groups.

1. Passamezzo antico 1
2. Bergamasca
3. La romanesca
4. Passamezzo moderno 1
5. La folla
6. Greensleeves (la romanesca)7. Recercada
8. Passo e mezzo
9. Passamezzo antico 2
10. Passamezzo antico 3
11. Passamezzo moderno 2
12. Basic Blues
13. Appendix: Examples of filling in intervals

_Part 16 pp._

  • Reviews
  • OMP051 Benjamin Thorn Do it Yourself Renaissance Improvisation

    Here is a basic introduction to the lost art of improvisation in Renaissance music. Benjamin Thorn gives excellent encouraging advice for the beginner on just how to take the first few steps. All improvisation is around a musical structure, and in this case the Renaissance has left us a variety of ground basses, some of which were used by composers up to the time of Mozart. For example, the Division Flute of 1708 is a whole collection of improvisations on ground basses by English composers/recorder players.

    Dr. Thorn gives a description of the different types of ground basses including a modern blues and examples of each with simple improvisations. Playing these is a good place to start before venturing out on your own improvisations as they provide a melodic structure to begin with. At the back is a section with basic examples of filling in the intervals of a melody: i.e. second, third, fourth, etc.

    Two points I wish to add. It would be helpful to have more on the chords and harmonies implied in the bass lines and some figured bass or sketched in examples of possible chords for the amateur keyboard player or guitarist to play from. Secondly as a sometime jazz player myself I know that the real inspiration for improvisation is to simply listening to other players and steal their licks! Have a listen to Pedro Menelsdorf on his fabulous album "Delight in disorder" and buy this book if your are inspired. Be prepared for some strange sounds at first (mistakes?) and above all, as Benjamin says, have fun!

    Bernard Wells Cinnamon Sticks, November 2001

    OMP051 Benjamin Thorn, Do it yourself Renaissance Improvisation.

    Much of the surviving Renaissance dance music is structured upon ground basses, and is very short.  Benjamin Thorn is convinced that the written music should be used as a starting point for improvisation, and this is supported by treatises from the period.

    The aim of the book is to provide a way into Renaissance improvisation both to allow the music to be performed closer to the original intention and to have a lot of fun while exploring the various possibilities.

    In the beginning of the book Benjamin Thorn gives some very useful guidelines for improvising.  The pieces in the book are both starting points and models which can be used by both individuals and groups.  The bass lines can be played on bass recorder or any other bass instrument.  Most of the melody lines are intended to suit the treble recorder but are quite suitable for other instruments.  The book also includes three quartets.

    In the appendix there are simple examples of possible ways of moving across particular internals (ascending and descending 5th, 4th and 3rd) in the space of a bar.

    The grounds occur in several different keys and tempos.  Ground basses used in this are Bergamasca, Recercada, three different forms of the Passamezzo, La Romanesca and La Follia.  "Basic Blues", a quartet piece written by Benjamin Thorn, is included in the book.  The 12-bar blues is the twentieth-century equivalent of the ground bass.

    "Do it yourself Renaissance Improvisation" is a very practical book, and is recommended for teaching improvisation to young children and adults alike.

    Henrique Meissner, The Recorder Magazine, Winter 2001

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