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Umeå Akademiska Kör

Early Vocal Music Map

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  • Research and text by Chris Whent at HOASM (Here on a Sunday Morning - WBAI 99.5 FM New York)
  • Composer Bibliography - links to Wikipedia and HOASM
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III. The Early Renaissance (1350-1500)

IIIc. John Dunstable and his time.

The leadership in European music during the latter half of the fourteenth century passed from France to Italy, but during the early years of the fifteenth century English influence became predominant, and mainly through the genius of John Dunstable profoundly affected later composers.

English music of this period, except for that of Dunstable, is mostly represented in a large collection known as the Old Hall manuscript, compiled ca. 1420, containing nearly 150 pieces, most of which are mass settings. The styles of composition are conductus, treble-dominated, isorhytbmic, and caccia-influenccd—that is, two upper voices, either in canon or much more animated than the lower voice or voices. The first two styles are the most common, the conductus settings being either simple, as in the thirteenth-century type, or ornamental, as in the Italian Ars Nova madrigal, and the treble-dominated pieces occasionally indulge in the kind of rhythmic complexity discussed in the previous chapter. This latter, together with the use of isorhythm and canon, shows that England was less insular than is usually made out. The prevalence of conductus style, however, indicates a conservatism which the example of Dunstable did nothing to alter; indeed, he can hardly have been known in Britain, as practically all his work is contained in manuscripts scattered about the Continent, notably those at Aosta, Modena, and Trent (all in Italy), only one piece, the very beautiful motet, Veni Sancte Spiritus—Veni Creator, being in the Old Hall manuscript, where it is given as anonymous.

Of the composers mentioned in the manuscript, the chief are Leonel Power , Thomas Damett , John Cooke , Byttering , Pycard , Nicholas Sturgeon , W. Typp , Oliver , and Robert Chirbury . The manuscript also contains the earliest surviving part-music by an English monarch— Henry V . Several of the composers in the manuscript, including Damett, Cooke, Sturgeon, and Chirbury, were clerks or 'singing men,’ of the Chapel Royal. This institution dates back to the twelfth century, when it was clearly an imitation of the Papal Chapel with its picked singers and composers. It was not confined to any one place, but accompanied the King wherever he went, and during the 200 years or so from Henry V to Charles II it included most of the leading English composers.

Although all the styles mentioned above had been and were being practised abroad, they show in general an important difference, a difference that was characteristically British, namely, a greater sonority based on the 'English discant' technique and evident also in the number of pieces à 4 and even à 5. It was this sonority which attracted Continental composers so much and inaugurated what the first great theorist of the century, Tinctoris, called a "new art". The third, and to a lesser extent the sixth, which had been gradually gaining acceptance in French and Italia compositions of the previous century, now became standard, but they did not yet seriously affect the supremacy of the fifth and octave, and in final chords especially the third was virtually excluded for many years to come, undoubtedly because it was less pleasing than the clear, open sound of the octave or octave and fifth combined.


Supplemental Materials

Composers bibliography and music

Name and link to Whents Bibliography Years Country # of PDF/Midi Discography MP3
Henry Abyngdon c.1418 - 1497 England . . .
Johannes Aleyn (Alanus) ? - 1373 England . . .
John Baldwyn (Baldwin) 15th Century England . . .
John Bedyngham ? - 1459/60 England . . .
John Benet fl. 1430 - 1450y England . Discography .
John Bodenham ? - 1459/60 England . . .
John Broder fl. 1460 - 1465 England . . .
Burcell fl. mid 15th Century England . . .
John Burell fl. 1413 - 1421 England . . .
Robert Bygbroke fl. 1435 - 1440 England . . .
Byttering fl. 1410 England . . .
Robert Catour (Catur) fl. 1445 - 1462 England . . .
Chirbury ? - c.1456 England . . .
John Cooke 1385? - 1442? England . Discography .
Richard Cox (Cockx) fl. 1440 - 1460 England . . .
Thomas Damett ? - before 1437 England . .Discography .
John Dowett fl. 1460 - 1465 England . . .
John Dunstable c. 1380 - 1453 England cpdl=7 Discography MP3
Thomas Exestre fl. 1390s England . . .
J. Exetre fl. 1393 - 1394 England . . .
John Forest fl. early 15th Century England . Discography .
Frankes fl. 1470 England . . .
Walter Frye ? - before 1475 England . Discography .
Roger Gervays fl. 1370 - 1380 England . . .
John Hanboys fl. mid 15th Century14th century England . . .
Roy Henry 1367 - 1413 England . Discography .
William Horwood ? - 1484 England . . .
William Hown fl. 1460 - 1465 England . . .
John Kegewyn fl. 1460 - 1470 England . . .
Walter Lambe c.1450 - after 1499 England . Discography .
[Mr.] Lambre fl. 1400 England . . .
John Ludford fl. 1385 England . . .
Mayshuet (de Joan), (Matheus de Sancto Johanne) fl. 1378 - 1386 England . Discography .
Robert Morton c.1440 - 1476 England . Discography .
William Newark fl. 1490 - 1510 England . . .
Oliver late 14th C - early 15th C England . . .
[Mr.] Pennard ? - ? England . . .
John Plummer c. 1410 - 1484 England . Discography MP3
Leonel Power c. 1375 - 1445 England cpdl=2 Discography MP3
John Pyamour ? - 1431 England . Discography .
Pycard late 14th C - early 15th C England . Discography .
[Mr.] Queldryk ? - ? England . . .
J.[?] Retford fl. 1429 England . . .
[Philippus?] Rowland (Rollyart) ? - ? England . . .
Thomas Saintwix [Saintriste] fl. 1460 - 1470 England . . .
[Mr.] Sheryngham ? - ? England . . .
John Souresby [Sowresby] fl. 1430 - 1460 England . . .
Soursby (Saurbi, Sorbi) fl. mid 15th century England . . .
Standley [Sandley] fl. mid 15th centry England . . .
Stone fl. mid 15th century England . . .
Nicholas Sturgeon ? - 1454 England . Discography .
[Mr.] Swynford 1325/35-1397 England . . .
John Thatcher [Catherow fl. 1462 England . . .
John of Thetford fl. 1390 - 1400 England . . .
J[ohn?] Tyes fl. 1400 - 1420 England . . .
Tyling fl. mid 15th century England . . .
W[illiam] Typp (Typpe) fl. 1410 - 1440 England . . .
Wyvell fl.mid 15th century England . . .
[Mr.] Zacar 14th century England . . .

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