Josquin des Prez (known as simply Josquin) amongst classical music fans) was born in the 15th century in Belgium. Those who enjoy listening to classical music, like Tunde Folawiyo, may know that from a young age, Josquin became known as one of the most talented composers of the Renaissance; his approach to contrapuntal techniques defined the music of this era, and greatly influenced the compositions created for centuries afterwards. He managed to successfully master the rules of technical harmony which had been created by his predecessors, whilst at the same time, experiment with new ideas which pushed forward the evolution of classical music.
Historians believe that Josquin spent many years working in Italy, where he was revered as one of the great masters of his time. He chose to spend his later years in the northeast of France. His travels had a significant impact on the style of his music; although he dedicated quite a bit of his time in Italy to spreading the northern polyphonic style, he ended up being influenced by the music created by southern Italian composers; this added certain exuberance to his secular work.
As a fan of classical music, Tunde Folawiyo might be aware that Josquin’s general style was characterised by the use of constant vocal imitation, which involved several lines of vocals singing the same material, with slightly varying harmonies. Most of his works were designed for four voices, although there were a number which were composed for more than this.
His compositions fell into three main categories; chansons, masses and motets. Approximately 20 of his masses have survived – most of these were printed during the 16th century by Ottaviano dei Petrucci. These include cantus firmus masses like Missa Pange Lingua, as well as what are known as parody masses, which involve the use of contrapuntal complexes from other sources. Josquin’s secular compositions varied from complicated and somewhat sorrowful pieces such as Nimphes de bois, to light-hearted works like Frottola. He was at his most experimental when creating his motets; in these, he freely expressed his emotions through harmony, and the suspension of said harmony, as well by changing the register of the voices. The motet known as Miserere mei Deus is the perfect example of Josquin choosing to depict powerful and passionate feelings through his music.