Research on Palestrina

Study and free re-invention of the first of the eight «Ricercari sopra li tuoni» by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

    School sections
    • Lower secondary school
    Educational subjects
    • Instrumental practice
    • Composition
    • Vocalism

Research on Palestrina

In this educational activity, the school’s orchestra listened to, analyzed and interpreted the first of the eight “Ricercari sopra li tuoni” by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, as a basis for a following phase dedicated to the reformulation and re-writing of the composition in a modern key, up to the creation of a RAP for voices and instruments. The path aimed to help identify Renaissance polyphonic characteristics that could be accessible to lower secondary school students: from a strictly musical perspective, we concentrated on the concept of polyphony (and of some related terms such as imitation, canon and isorhythm): from this starting point, the students were led, through a given theme and arrangement, to re-invent the piece proposed through lyrics written by them, spurring their creativity and sense of entrepreneurship, also with the aim to help them grasp the strong connection between Palestrina’s territory of belonging, city of birth, and musical expressiveness.

Work tools

The spaces used for the activities were those usually present at school, besides spaces dedicated to the intermediate and final events, such as the municipal theater and the church San Pietro in Zagarolo (Rome). At school, we had several classrooms dedicated to musical instrument lessons held in the afternoon (with desks that could be organized as desired, an IWB and a good quality sound system), and a large hall on ground floor that we used for the orchestra’s rehearsals. Apart from the physical spaces, we used platforms to share the educational material (GSuite, Padlet). For the preparation of the arrangements and audios supporting the students’ studies, we used musical writing software.

Educational purposes

The skills, goals and training objectives selected by the teacher for this experience are shown below.

    • Interpretation
    • Analysis
    • Comprehension
    • Execution
    • Composition
    Reading and Writing
    • Use of conventional analogic music notation
    Lower secondary school
    • Understands and evaluates events, materials, and musical works recognising their meanings, also in relation to his/her own musical experience and the different historical/sociological context.
    • Actively participating in music experiences through the execution and the interpretation of vocal and instrumental music pieces belonging to different genres and cultures.
    Reading and Writing
    • Using different notation systems functional to reading, analysis and reproduction of pieces of music
    • Integrating one’s own music experience with other knowledge and practices using appropriate codes and codification systems
Educational targets

The students learned how to:
- recognize the essential elements of the Renaissance polyphonic genre;
- perform in an orchestra a four-part polyphonic piece in an autonomous and conscious way;
- recognize in a score, both visibly and playing an instrument, the incipit, the entries of parts, and the cadential movements;
- recognize the essential elements of an original composition, even in a modern arrangement;
- work in group for a musical creation and performance;
- invent and perform freely invented lyrics that were then rapped on a given backing track;
- manage, both technically and emotionally, a live music performance.


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