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Artopium.com -> Library Index -> Music Terms -> Villancico

Music Term: Villancico

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Definition and background:

A 15th and 16th century form of Spanish poetry that was often set to music. The early villancico were unique to Spain (known as Iberia at the time). By the middle of the fifteenth century, the textual and musical form was well defined and was similar to the Italian frottola. It was very popular during the Baroque period and unlike the frottola which virtually disappeared by the middle of the sixteenth century, the villancico continued to be popular through the early part of the seventeenth century. The villancico also became popular in areas colonized by the Spanish, specifically Mexico and Guatemala. The subject matter was generally rustic and pastoral themes.The musical form of the Iberian villancico of the late fifteenth century is composed in ternary form. The first part is the refrain or estribillo (sometimes known as the "head"); The second part is the strophe or copla which is divided in two parts (often called the "feet"). The first part of the (called mudanza) has a different melody and rhyme than the refrain;The third part is the second part of the strophe (called vuelta) and it repeats the melody and rhyme of the refrain. It concludes one cycle of the form and begins the next.This form can be shown as AB CC CB for the text and ab cc ab for the music.Villancicos were typically polyphonic and written for at least two voices (and as many as four). They would often be written for a solo singing voice with some variety of instrumental accompaniment ( basso continuo). The counterpoint was usually simple and chordal in character. It was also common for a soloist to sing the strophes with a chorus of mixed voices added on the refrains. The text was set in syllabic style and was generally simple in melody. There was often a pronounced beat, since it was also a form of dance music. Percussion was therefore a common instrumental element.

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