Composers of the Renaissance

All the Vital Locations of the Renaissance in One Tour!

El Duomo in Milan, Italy

Italy is considered the center of the Renaissance. So, we will start in the middle of Italy! Or rather, in its capital: the great city of Milan. This is where Josquin De Prez, considered the center of all great artists of the Renaissance, worked as the biscantor, or singer of polyphony, for the Milan Cathedral.

Josquin De Prez hugely influenced the later half of the Renaissance; he put emotion and feeling into the music itself. Of the singers in the Renaissance, he was the most studied by scholars and historians, though little could be pieced together of his life. He lived from 1440-1521 AD.

Sistine Chapel in Rome, Italy

Our second stop will take us to the historical town of Rome, Italy. Here, Guillaume Dufay served for Pope Martin V in the Vatican, or more specifically, in the Papal Choir of the Sistine Chapel of the pope.

Guillaume Dufay is considered to be one of the best composers of his time and in the Renaissance. While De Prez was known for actual creation of music, Dufay was known for his creative new rhythms and use of harmony. He also formed the central musical language for the rest of the renaissance, so he had many peers finding inspiration in his methods and music. As must happen to us all, Dufay died in 1494 in Cambria, France. His legacy, however, lived on for the rest of the renaissance and beyond.

Flanders, Brussels, Belgium

For the third stop of our tour, we will go to the small country of Belgium, though it was once part of the great region of Burgundy, where most of the greatest composers, such as Gilles Binchois, Johannes Ockeghem, and Josquin De Prez, came from.

Among this group was Guillaume Dufay, who did not, however, live there for most of his life. He realized his musical talent as a choirboy in Cambria, France, in a church where he was later made the Canon. It was also his final resting place.

Dufay wrote music both secular and sacred. He wrote hundreds of ballads, motets, and masses, and was one of the last composers of his time to use the isorhythm. He also mastered the talent of linking music to text, which is what composers of the renaissance had been trying to do for a while.

Mons, Hainaut, Belgium

Here in Hainaut, the great composer Orlando Di Lasso came into being. Orlando Di Lasso belonged to the Franco-Flemish school of composers, whose compositions contributed a great deal to the Renaissance.

Di Lasso wrote a wide variety of masses, in the category of sacred music. He also wrote many compositions in the secular style with the Italian madrigal, and around 150 French chansons.

Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

On our second Burgundy stop, we find the beautiful and free city of Amsterdam. Here, Jan Sweelinck set up a music school for children. He is, however, most well known for being the organist at Amsterdam's Oude Kerk, or Old Church. He was a composer of the keyboard and vocal music.

Sweelinck was born into a very musical family in Deventer, Netherlands. He wrote music both secular and sacred. He wrote a large variety of French chansons (songs) and Italian madrigals. In his time, Jan Sweelinck was known as the 'Orpheus of Amsterdam'. His pieces and lessons he had to teach, however, reach far past his town and out into the rest of Europe.

Lille, France

In 1423, Gilles Binchois moved to Lille in France, one of the low countries. Binchois lived from 1400-1460. He was the chaplain for the dukes of Burgundy, but other than this, little was known about his life. He excelled in French chansons and wrote a large quantity of sacred music, such as masses and motets. He was also the contemporary of Guillaume Dufay, which is why the portraits seen below are similar.

The reason for his move to this location in France is unknown, but historians believe that he moved as a soldier for the Earl of Suffock in England, given a line about it that was read in his eulogy. Binchois is considered one of the greatest composers of the 15th century.

Paris, France

Here in the great city of Paris, Johannes Ockeghem served for the Duke of Bourbon. Johannes Ockeghem was a well respected composer of his time, along with Josquin De Prez and Guillaume Dufay.

As well as serving for the duke, Ockeghem played for Charles VII, Charles VIII, and Luis IV. They all regarded him as the preeminent composer of his day, and from what historians have found, he was. Much of his music, however, was lost, and little of his life is known to us today. His legacy, however, will live forever.

Bedford, England

For the last stop of our tour, we will visit Bedford, England. Although it is not certain, John Dunstable was under the service of the duke of Bedford, and may have been born there, so this is where we will go to learn about his life.

Dunstable made harmonies using intervals differently to the ones most commonly used. He was an exceptional artist from the early 15th century, and though much of his life was lost, it is known that he was one of the leading composers of England. He wrote in both sacred and secular music, and left around 52 pieces, though in some times it is hard to ascertain his music from others. Dunstable's music was very definitive with a strong tonic, much like the tones used in Burgundy.

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