top of page

W o r k s h o p    2 0 1 5

The Portuguese Renaissance polyphony workshop has as a goal recreating the work methods of a musical chapel in the Renaissance. The course aims to discover Portuguese sacred polyphony through original notation, singing from a choirbook around a lectern, experimenting with historical solfege (solmization) and taking the first steps in improvised counterpoint.




The workshop's contents (mainly solmization, original notation and improvisation) are part of a whole integrated in ensemble performance, and are structured following the old musical curriculum established in the end of the Middle Ages. This curriculum is constantly mentioned both in theoretical sources (treatises called of practial music) and other documents (especially contracts in which the didactic obligations of chapel masters are described), and  is divided in three parts: plainchant, counterpoint, and polyphony.

  • Plainchant: starting point of the old musical training, it refers not only to the knowledge of Gregorian chant repertoire (and other realted ones), but also to the basic musical abilities realated with it, in a monodic context, still free of any rythmic complexity. The main technical aspect is solmization (historical solfege based on hexachords).


  • Counterpoint: the practice of improvising a second voice above plainchant, following pre-established patterns (consonant and dissonant harmonic intervals, diadic progressions, typical formulas, etc.). It allows the knowledge of the bases with which polyphony is built.


  • Polyphony: performing written polyphony. The main element is mensural notation: knowing the notes, mensuration (perfect and imperfect time, major and minor prolation), the phenomena of imperfection and alteration, as well as notational resources of color and porportion.




The initial paradigm in which this course is based is to teach theory through practice. The contents of the workshop were recreated based on musical sources, theoretical sources and other documents from the Renaissance, intoducing this information with a practical format and following the paradigm of historically informed pedagogy.




- Knowing historical solfege (hexachordal solmization) and valuing its relevance in the repertoires of early music in general.

- Knowing mensural notation in order to be able to read early music through its original sources.

- Get used to one of the most common formats of original sources - choirbooks - and value its implications in practice.

- Be introduced to the practice of improvised polyphont and value it as basis of written repertoire.

- Perform polyphony from original sources.

bottom of page