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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: July 2015

8 - Oral composition in fifteenth-century music

from Part II - Improvisation and composition


Joseph Kerman's Contemplating Music and the new-musicological positions it catalyzed and nourished in the 1980s and 1990s posed a particular challenge to scholars of fifteenth-century music. Hearing was a metaphor for close reading in the absence of sound. Josquin's mass represents an expression and articulation of many musical practices that must have fundamentally informed musical hearing and listening around 1500, and even before. The metaphorical language brought to bear on this musical entity since the middle of the last century offers a meaningful snapshot of stasis and change in early music historiography. Busnoys's tenor connects the piece to the cantus firmi of other late medieval musicians' motets, and to the kinds of musical communities in which they circulated. The sounds of musical teaching and learning embody the unending cyclic repetitions comprising music history. Busnoys, Josquin, and the drums of Techiman realize the wholeness of community and the wholeness of history as moments of sounding as did the organ of Reims.


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