- Ornate Baroque art, architecture and music.
The term Baroque was derived from the Portuguese word barocco which means an "irregularly shaped pearl." There were negative associations first associated with the use of the term Baroque, and when applied to art and architecture, it implied something that was unbalanced, overly ornate and extravagant. These negative associations have disappeared, and in music, Baroque now describes a style that sounds grandiose, expansive, and is often ornamented and filled with energy and movement.
- Scientific discoveries and experimentation.
The Baroque era was a time of scientific investigation and discovery, and significant scientific advances were made by prominent individuals such as Sir Isaac Newton who formulated the theory of gravity; Johannes Kepler, and Galileo Galilei, who expanded on Copernicus's theories of the movement of planets; Sir William Harvey, who defined the circulation of blood; and René Descartes who made advances in the field of mathematics. Experimentation also took place in music, and composers experimented with new sounds, effects, compositional styles and instrumental techniques.
- Absolute monarchy and the rising middle class.
This period is sometimes referred to as the Age of Absolutism, a time when the concept of the divine right of kings resulted in absolute rule by "God-chosen" monarchs. European kings such as Louis XIV of France (1638-1715) ruled with the self-described mandate, "I am the state," and his lavish lifestyle is exemplified by his opulent summer palace at Versailles. Members of the middle class were not included in the musical events regularly held by the aristocracy, and the middle class held their own musical events in their homes or in organizations such as collegium musicums, groups of citizens who met to play and sing music for their own pleasure.
- Religion and war.
Strong religious views were expressed during this era, and two of Europe's main religions were Protestantism and Catholicism. The Protestant Reformation led to the Catholic Church's Counter-Reformation, and many violent religious wars resulted from their differences. Although the Church continued to patronize the arts, its influence was not as great as in past eras, and the aristocracy, merchant class and financiers began to play a more prominent role in supporting the arts. Religion also played a role in the establishment of the American colonies. During the seventeenth century, many Protestant refugees left northern Europe and sought religious freedom in America, and they brought their music traditions with them.