Definition and background:
A vocal music form that flourished in the Renaissance, originating in Italy. The madrigal is generally written for four to six voices that may or may not be accompanied (in modern performance madrigals are usually presented a cappella). Madrigals are usually set to short love poems, though the words are occasionally about death, war, etc.; they were extremely popular in England and Italy, and also produced in France, Germany, and a few in Spain. The madrigal is characterized by word painting and harmonic and rhythmic contrast. In the madrigal, each line has its own tune, rather than the entire composition having a single tune with harmonic accompaniment. See Madrigal choir and Madrigalism. (fourteenth-century) an Italian secular genre using the form a a b or a a a b. If polyphonic, the top line is often more florid than the bottom. Not related to the sixteenth-century madrigal. originally a form of vocal composition of 14th century Italy, the madrigal became, in the 16th and 17th centuries, a favorite form of part-song, stemming first from Italy. In England the madrigal became popular in the last two decades of the 16th century in adaptations of Italian compositions and in new works by English composers.
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary