Additional Listening Examples for Music 213 Court and Ceremonial Music of the 16th Century. 

(Only a few of these will be on your listening test but you should listen to as many as you can.  Please click on the links below where the translations are provided.  The most famous are the Fanfare "Vive le Roi" and the madrigal Amarilli Mia Bella which will be on your listening test) 

These additional works belong to a period that came 75 years before the high 16th century of the Elizabethans and the 'Golden Age' of Palestrina, Lassus and Victoria. (in the first decade of the 1500's).  All the composers in this web page were active in French court circles and most were directly attached, for various periods of time, to the great court of the French king, Louis XII and his music-loving queen, Anne de Bretagne, who died in 1514. One of her funeral motets is included. It was a time of composers much honored in their day, though still largely unknown in ours (except for Josquin des Prês).   

This music begins a new era!  The music of the Middle Ages is predominantly sacred, but in the 15th through the early 17th centuries, there is a great flourishing of songs dedicated to secular topics, predominately love. With the invention of music printing, the spread of literacy and improved travel musical and poetic ideas traveled rapidly around Europe, creating a distinctive set of ideas which elaborated themes inherited from the troubadours and their descendents. The notion of courtly love was now hardly taken seriously, but its imagery was still powerful.  Never before, had music flourished so gracefully, never had the art achieved such an astonishing complexity yet at the same time such a poignancy of expression. They had an interweaving of melodic lines, where four, five, six and more strands could be composed harmoniously together, sometimes blended and linked by the subtlest of imitation from line to line, by adroitly fashioned canons and canons-within-canons, based upon Gregorian chant or upon folk songs of the era.

It was music that could express passions of the utmost delicacy, the profoundest joy and the deepest lamentation. There were singers of extraordinary art, who could move princes and kings with their music. Anne de Bretagne, the Queen, in 1510 hearing a "chantre" sing in the cathedral of Chartres, was so moved that she took him on the spot into her services; she compensated the cathedral for its loss by the gift of a new bell. (The singer's name was Jean Le Fevre.) The voice still was supreme, for it was the natural instrument, given by God, and its' singing traditions went back century upon century. Composers were usually singers as a matter of course. There were many instruments too; whole families of plucked strings, of viols, flutes, recorders, and many a shawm, zinc, serpent and other instruments strange to us today. There were brasses for outdoor music, to match the gentler indoor strings and the recorder. Everywhere they were played and singers sang (including kings and queens themselves) to the music composed those who knew the art. (See webliography or text for pictures of these instruments)

Music was the special care of the kings and princes of the Renaissance. For music, too, along with so much else, had left the medieval stronghold of the church's protection and now moved with freedom and power both in the church and at court as a living part of every Renaissance ceremony, every event of the day. Seldom has an art been so vital to those who cherished it. To our unaccustomed ears today, the music of 1500 may seem to strange or seem to contain a wistful sadness. This is because the minor mode seems constantly present, and for some of us "minor mode" spells sadness. (Besides the minor mode this music also used the older modes, in particular the Dorian and Phrygian.) The implication of sadness, is a modern invention. Even Bach and Handel in the mid-1700's wrote “happy” music in minor keys so the sadness is  a product of the early 19th century which is only just yesterday!  We can adapt to these earlier sounds and soon begin to hear the joy in the music as well as the true sadness that is often there.   

In 1500, and for many years after, music was composed abstractly, as pure melody, to be performed in many optional ways by voices or instruments or both in combination according to the occasion. Good taste ruled the selection, but the choice was wide. Words were usually provided but a motet of the time existed in the same way a well-known popular tune does today. 

The music existed as melodies separate from the words.  In later centuries music was composed to the rhythm of the text but in this period words were added to existing melodies! 

We need to single out one composer who was a giant among many who were popular : Josquin des Près, the greatest composer of the Flemish school.  He, like so many Northern musicians, served his years in Rome near the end of the 15th century as a member of the Papal Chapel. Later on-the date is unknown-he entered the service of the King of France, Louis XII, and thus became part of the great French circle of musicians. 

Josquin des Près: Fanfare "Vive le Roi"  is an ingenious royal fanfare built upon a tune derived from the vowels of the title itself (perhaps in a more antique spelling than ours)-in French syllable names it is "at mi at ré ye sol mi", which in our letters is C E C D D G E. This melody can be heard several times, against the faster canon in three voices. By Josquin's time, the chanson in France was the most beloved of courtly musical forms, combining exquisite love poetry with a gentle, aristocratic modesty of expression, often on the edge of wry humor.  

De quoi je vivrai/ Je n'ai plus d'argent/ Vivrai'je da eent/ Si l'argent du roi/ Ne vient plus souvent? ("How shall I live - I have no more money; Shall I live on air, if the king's money does not come more often?")   

Here are some more composers that are introduced in your text.  The translations of the songs are included:

Giulio Caccini: Amarilli Mia Bella  This popular madrigal from Italy has a simple text which uses a traditional Arcadian name: Amayrillis. To take the arrow out of the lover's heart is to heal him of love's wound, and that can only be done by lovemaking that was so well known from Italy that it was a favorite at the French court. Amaryllis, my lovely one, do you not believe, o my heart's sweet desire, That you are my love? Believe it thus: and if fear assails you, Doubt not its truth. Open my breast and see written on my heart: Amaryllis, Amaryllis, Amaryllis, Is my beloved.

Loyset Compêre's Che fai Ia Ramacia This light-hearted Un franc archer is in first for instruments, then voices. The text, in colloquial French, sets its observations about the archer (bowman) to a canon on a popular melody, the beginning of which descends four notes-it can be heard clearly in canon, most easily in the opening brass version. Every time has its own widely circulated jokes, its humorous tunes to cryptic words that make entire sense to the initiated. It seems that about 1500 there was a popular satirical tune, much heard in various farcical presentations and even adapted, maliciously, to use as a Noel (Christmas popular tune), having to do with the Order of Saint Baboon, a mythical monkey business. This dates from 1501; one can easily hear the popular style of the melody, treated to a simple canon. This is nominally a chanson-humor and even political satire could occasionally gain the upper hand at the expense of courtly love. (See Josquin's Adieu mes am ours, above as an additional example of 15th century humor) Two more songs  by Loyset COMPERE  La Alfonsina: Must you not take when you give, when you hand over your body completely to serve, hold and love, and call out for your mistress, hoping she will give herself up. I believe that two trimly united hearts must belong to each other and set clearly that, without aversion, those who refuse to follow this law go astray. You might as well drown as choose a partner full of gall, for in love one must give so much.   Che fa Ia Ramacina, What has happened to Ia Ramacina? What is she doing, why doesn't she come? Long live love and Ia Ramacina: what is she doing, why doesn't she come?

BINCHOIS: Triste Plaisir et Doileure

Sad pleasures. sorrowful joys, bitter sweetness. nagging comfort, weeping smiles and forgetful memories: these are my companions. however alone I may be. They are hidden away inside my heart, far from my eyes, so that I do not set them; sad pleasures, sorrowful joys, bitter sweetness, nagging comfort. This is my treasure, this is my wealth, and for this. Danger is envious of me: he would certainly be if he saw me doing better still, for he hates me because I obtain the rewards of love.

BINCHOIS:  Deul Angoisseux, Rage Desmesuree  

Anguished grief, rage beyond measure, grievous despair full of torment, desire without end, unhappy life full of tears, anguish and torment, sorrowful heart which lives in obscurity. painful body unable to bear more: all of these are my unceasing lot, and I can neither die nor recover. 


The pains I have in full measure fill my mind so that I cannot free myself of them and I grieve both night and day. Unceasingly I count them over, always thinking I can conquer them; these pains I have in full measure fill my mind. I am overwhelmed by them, and, if Death himself were to summon me and fell me with his club, I could not put them to sleep. 

DUFAY: Donnes L'Assault a  la Forteresse performed on three sacquebouttes and chalesnie. 

DELAHAYE: Mort, J'appelle de la Rigueuer  Death. I challenge you to do your worst, you who have ravished my mistress from me and are not yet satisfied unless you have me too in your clutches. Never since that day have I had strength or vigor, and what harm did she do you when she was alive? Death, I challenge you to do your worst, you who have ravished my beloved from site. We were two bodies with a single heart; if that is dead. Then I must die too, or else live on without life, like the memories in my mind. 

Heinrich ISAAC:  Morte Che Fai? Death, why do you tarry in claiming your spoils? Since my sorrow is incurable, come quickly and end the pain which my afflicted soul endures in my heart. Tear my soul from my breast, and let me no longer be the plaything of fortune. 

Heinrich ISAAC:  La Morra   I will pursue my aim with unshakable determination. Strike me, Cupid. with thy dart, even if I should die of it. If I lose her, at least my noble desire will show great courage. I will pursue my aim with unshakable determination.

BUSNOYS: Air for two sacqueboutes, chalemie and a tambour.

"Anon." (anonymous) is a composer of considerable importance in the age. Here are two light little songs, no less interesting than the works where we know the name of the composer, and an anonymous chanson: Si j'ay perdtt mon ami, played by recorders.  Tuba Gallucas  is played on three sacqueboutes. (Other anonymous selections below)

ANON. Epitaphe de L’amant Beneath this tomb, which is a hard conclave. lies the Grecian Lover and the very noble slave whole princely heart, drunk with pure love, cannot suffer the loss of his  lady and live. 

ANON. Dit Le Bourguignon performed by four oboes and tambour. 

ANON. Of all English Renaissance tunes, this is the most familiar, partly because of its modern use for the Christmas carol What Child Is This?  However, it was a wildly popular tune in its own day, and was arranged in endless different ways. Here we hear it sung much as it must have sounded in the 16th century. Although the text speaks in the voice of a man spurned by his lady love, it is here sung by a woman, which would not have bothered a Renaissance audience one bit. They had little concern for the gender of the singer of a song so long as the voice was a pleasant one. The message was conveyed by the words and melody, and not by the person of the singer.

Alas my love, ye do me wrong
to cast me off discurteously:
And I have loved you so long,
Delighting in your companie.

Greensleeves was all my joy
Greensleeves was my delight:
Greensleees was my heart of gold,
And who but my Ladie Greensleeves.

I have been readie at your hand,
to grant what ever you would crave
I have both waged life and land,
your love and good will for to have.

Greensleeves was all my joy, etc.

Thou couldst desire no earthly thing,
But still thou hadst it readily,
Thy musicke still to play and sing,
And yet thou wuldst not love me.


Greensleeves was all my joy, etc.

Greensleeves now farewell adieu
God I pray to prosper thee,
For I am still thy lover true
Come once again and love me.


Greensleeves was all my joy, etc.

Return to the Early Music Listening List

Other composers of the era for further study:

Antoine de Févin came from Arras and died at the court of Belois, the fabulous seat on the Loire river in central France in the midst of the chateau country, built by a succession of kings, notably Louis XII and Francis I who came after him. This younger man was a follower of Josquin des Près.  His motet celebrates some kingly event, the nature of which is not known.

Jean Mouton is one of the better known composers of the period. It is one of a number of motets expressing the real anguish of the musical world at the loss of a great patroness and music lover, the Queen of France, Anne de Bretagne. The date was 1514 -she was only 37- and it is not known for which of several great funeral ceremonies.  Antoine Bruznel: He is a Flemish composer of the same period who was not at the court of the king of France though he was stationed at various times at Chartres, at Notre-Dame in Paris as well as at Geneva and even in Italy. He was famous for establishing a new trend, combining the more lyric elements of the chanson (which was sung in French) with the Latin-text motet-the "motet-chanson", a style that was soon called Parisian. TWO LANGUAGES AT ONCE! Josquin composed a sacred Mass based on the piece. Even in instrumental form it is half-way between the motet and the lighter chanson.

Antoine de Longueval: He was famous for first setting a passion, his setting of the Passion According to Saint Matthew and dates from about 1517, or more than two hundred years before the well known work by J. S. Bach.  Longueval, was maitre de chapelle to Louis XII in 1517 and continued in the service of Francis I.  This is not like a Baroque Passion but a motet Passion, adapting the prevailing mode of composition of the time with an Evangelist (narrator) and the Turba, (the turbulent crowd). There was still no opera, no "spoken" recitative for solo voice; indeed, the solo role was not conceivable in terms of music, except entirely by itself as in a chanson with instrumental accompaniment. Music was not theatre - not yet. Not for a full century... It has an unusually long text, in Latin and was before the time of Protestant music in colloquial language. 

Francesco Petrarca: devoted dozens of sonnets to his love for Laura, who died in the black death of the 14th century without ever having returned his passion. These became some of the most influential and imitated love lyrics ever written, translated and set to music all over Europe. He did not invent the "Petrarchan sonnet" form, but he made it famous. He imagines that her brief presence in the world was a miraculous angelic apparition. She becomes almost godlike in her powers, with the music of her speech transforming nature.

Christine de Pisan: (or Pizan) was a 14th-century French writer who was wed at 15 and widowed at 25, and dedicated her output of love-lyrics to the memory of her late husband to whom she was utterly devoted. Despite the wish for death expressed in the envoi to this poem, she lived on to compose many other works, often defending women's rights and praising their accomplishments. Not only is this an unusual work in expressing wifely devotion, but it is also highly original in the way it piles sorrow on sorrow in a torrent of anguished verse. Although Christine is counted as a "Medieval" poet her poem was set by Gilles Binchois, a "Renaissance" composer, reminding us that no sharp boundary separated these periods and that he could respond directly and immediately to her emotion with powerfully moving music.