Josquin Desprez

1 January 2017

In the history of Western music Josquin Desprez became one of the most influential composers. Not much was known about this great composer’s time on earth. A lot of what people know about his life is expressed through his music. Josquin’s estimated date of birth is said to be 1440. Recent research shows that his birth date could have been later sometime in the 1450’s. Before he died in 1521 Desprez made a huge impact on the music during the Renaissance.

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Years after Josquin Desprez’s death, his music was distributed all throughout Europe and Germany. A quote from Todd M. McComb, who wrote a discography about Desprez, helps one to understand why his music became so popular and it says, “The clear textures and text declamation which Josquin employed set the stage not only for the next developments of technical harmony, but for the clarity and conciseness demanded by the Counter-Reformation of Palestrina et al. as well.

Josquin’s output displays a rare combination of innovation and accomplished technical mastery, and has retained for him a position as the most prominent composer of the early sixteenth century, perhaps the high point of Western music as a whole. ” This simply meant his music was recited clearly and concisely. He was doing things that no other composer had done to music. He also improved the techniques other composer had been using for years. This statement by McCobb sums up the reasons Desprez was honored so much for his music.

His style allowed him to compose over a hundred motets and many other works while he was alive. Polyphonic imitation was a common technique in motets. Polyphonic imitation is where one musical line shares or imitates the same musical theme as the proceeding line. One song by Desprez, titled Ave Maria- Virgo Serena, uses polyphonic imitation all throughout the piece. This piece describes his work the best. One said, “With his strict canonic opening and subsequent structural interplay,” this song is a perfect example of his style.

The songs meaning comes from when the angel Gabriel told Mary about Jesus’ birth. Hail thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. ” (Luke 1:28) is a scripture from the bible that is quoted in the song. Centuries later the song is still very popular. Since Desprez, many many composers have remade the song Ave Maria. I have heard the song played in theatre, at weddings, church, and now for a music assignment. Out of all the renditions of Ave Maria the version by Beyonce Knowles has made this song one of my favorite songs. Now that I have heard Josquins original version I see that Beyonce was nowhere near close to resembling this song.

The most important aspect of the song is the imitation of the soprano voice to alto to tenor then bass and her rendition was more like a solo with a different meaning. Through his music Josquin Desprez influenced many composers of his time and he still continues to influence composers of modern times. To some, Desprez is still noted as the greatest composer of Western music and also a leader in Renaissance music. Josquin Desprez brought to the table polyphonic imitations which are still used today in chorus. Today Desprez’s work that happened centuries ago are still the influence for some artist today.

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