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Prima pratica

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Prima pratica

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Prima pratica, literally "first practice", refers to early Baroque music which looks more to the style of Palestrina, or the style codified by Gioseffo Zarlino, than to more "modern" styles. It is mainly used in comparison with seconda pratica music, and it can be used in modern texts synonymously with stile antico, which is compared with stile moderno, which can be used synonymously with seconda pratica. The term prima pratica was first used during the conflict between Giovanni Artusi and Claudio Monteverdi about the new musical style.

At first prima pratica referred only to the style of approaching and leaving dissonances. In his Seconda parte dell'Artusi (1603), Artusi writes about the new style of dissonances, referring specifically to the practice of not properly preparing dissonances (see Counterpoint, and rising after a flattened note or descending after a sharped note. In another book, his L'Artusi, overo Delle imperfettioni della moderna musica (1600) ("The Artusi, or imperfections of modern music") Artusi had also attacked Monteverdi specifically, using examples from his madrigal "Cruda Amarilli" to discredit the new style.

Monteverdi responded in a preface to his fifth book of madrigals, and his brother Giulio Cesare Monteverdi responded in Scherzi Musicale (1607) to Artusi's attacks on Monteverdi's music, pointing out their view that the old music subordinated text to music, and that the new music the text dominated the music. Old rules of counterpoint could be broken in order to better serve the text. According to Giulio Cesare, these concepts were a hearkening back to ancient Greek musical practice.


  • Claude V. Palisca. "Prima pratica", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (accessed March 19, 2006), (subscription access).
  • Grout, Donald J. A History of Western Music (6th ed.), W.W. Norton and Company, New York, 2001. ISBN 393975274

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