Josquin des Prez
Josquin des Prez is widely considered by music scholars to be the first master of the high Renaissance style of polyphonic vocal music that was emerging during his lifetime.In music, the terms polyphony (noun) or polyphonic (adjective) describe a texture consisting of two or more simultaneous lines of independent melody.
Let’s look at a simple example. You all know the melody to Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Practice singing this melody with your teacher:
Click on the icon to hear the melody played on the piano.
[ca_audio url_mp3=”https://shreveportsymphony.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/DesPrezBoatAudio1.mp3″ url_ogg=”” width=”350″ align=”none”]
Now let’s sing it as a “round” where the 2nd voice comes in after the 1st voice begins. A “round” is a very simple and popular form of polyphony. “Poly” is a Greek word that means “many”. “Phony” comes from the Greek word “phonos” which means voice or sound. So, polyphony can be thought of as “many voices”, in this case, two!
[ca_audio url_mp3=”https://shreveportsymphony.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/DesPrezBoatAudio2.mp3″ url_ogg=”” width=”350″ align=”none”]
You can keep adding voices to the round to add layers to its polyphonic texture. Try adding a third voice, and a fourth. Simply delay the entry of each additional voice until the preceding voice has reached the word “gently.”
During the 16th century, Josquin was such an expert at composing polyphonic music that he acquired the reputation of being the greatest composer of the age. His mastery of technique and expression were universally imitated and admired. In fact, he was so admired that music copyists who received unsigned compositions to copy, would sign the copies “Josquin des Prez” just so people would buy them!
MUSIC MEMORY SELECTION:
The piece you will study this year in Music Memory is a very high spirited song entitled El Grillo or The Cricket. Here is an English translation of the song’s lyrics:
The cricket is a good singer
Listen to a performance of El Grillo sung by the “Prophets of the Perfect Fifth,” a superb vocal quartet (4 singers) from Israel. They’re singing in the original Italian, so while you may not be able to understand the words, you will be able to tell when the singers are imitating the sound of the cricket!
El Grillo is an example of 4-voice polyphony. If you’d like to follow the music as the vocal quartet sings, watch this:
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT: