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Carlo Gesualdo

1561 - 1613
Born in Italy

Carlo Gesualdo was the Prince of Venosa and a well-known Renaissance composer. At that time, aristocrats did not typically seek to publish their music as this trade was usually associated with those of lower classes. Gesualdo is known particularly for his madrigals. A madrigal during the sixteenth century was a short secular piece for any number of equally important voices that used free form poetry as its text. One key feature of the madrigal was the use of music to enhance the meaning of the text. Many madrigal composers, including Gesualdo, would use word painting. This is a musical term used to describe music that literally represents a text. For instance, if a text talks about climbing stairs, the musical line will move up with the stairs.

Many believe Gesulado was ahead of his time in the way he dealt with harmonies. Some believe his last two books of madrigals to be autobiographical in that they convey a sorrowful mood and the pain he likely experienced in life due to unhappy marriages and various ailments.

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