The Life of Josquin

Though he was one of the most famous people who ever dignified the music industry, very little can be said about Josquin’s birth and his early years (Duke 1). Though some people believe he might have been born either in Southern Belgium or Northern France there is no evidence to cement their statements or even the birth dates of Josquin that are said to range between 1440 and 1455 (Duke 1). Surprisingly, nobody has presented any or has any evidence of where Josquin received his first training in music, or if he even had any kind of formal training at all. Nevertheless, Josquin will go down in music history as the person who composed a piece of a sacred choral music in honor of Johannes Ockeghem, a Franco-Flemish or a Netherlandish School composer (Duke 1). Perhaps the most interesting thing is that it is also unknown what kind of relationship this two had, was it a pupil-teacher relationship? Nobody has an idea.

Though a part of his life remains a mystery, what is known is that Josquin, like numerous composers during his days, left for Italy where he had a thriving career. In the 1470’s Josquin is seen in Milan, a celebrated composer in the royal courts of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza (Duke 1). Again during the late 1400s, we find him in the papal choir in Rome. Josquin didn’t seem to stop, again in the early 1500s, the Duke Ercole I of Ferrara could not resist this amazing talent (Duke 1). The Duke hired Josquin to write and sing in his chapel, which translated to be the climax of Josquin’s professional life. Josquin left Rome during the Black Plague epidemic in 1503 barely a year later, King Louis XII of France appointed Josquin to be the head of the famous scholastic Church of Notre Dame in Condé-sur-l’Escaut (Duke 1).

The Music of Josquin

Known to his friends as the ultimate music writer of his day, Josquin’s musical style can be defined as a blend of Franco-Flemish polyphony, a mixture of numerous melodies heard concurrently (ClassicalNet 1). Josquin wrote masses, short pieces of sacred choral music and French songs. As a matter of fact, Josquin was a master of every one of these music compositions. Josquin was mainly skillful at the canon, or a music masterpiece of intersecting or overlapping vocals (ClassicalNet 1). The famous song, Row, Row, Row Your Boat is a good example of a canon. Interestingly, a canon can use one voice or numerous voices as much as four or five, and as the austere type of polyphony, a canon requires great expertise on the part of the writer. The sacred choral music, Ave Maria, gratia plena, is a brilliant sample of a canonic composition with four voices intersecting each other in flawless imitation, one after another (ClassicalNet 1).

In numerous masses that Josquin performed for, he applied an older style well-known as the cantus firmus, which present melody music writers use as a base for composition. For example, Missa Fortuna desperata is a good sample of a cantus firmus mass that utilizes the polyphonic song Fortuna desperata as its melodious foundation. Missa Pange lingua is a mass that was written by Josquin in 1515 (Duke 1). This was his last mass. Currently it is only known that Josquin stayed at the church in Condé-sur-l’Escaut until his demise in 1521(Duke 1).


Works Cited:

Duke, Charis. 2016. Josquin Des Prez: Biography & Music Chapter 18 / Lesson 12. Accessed on 23rd March 2016 from

Classical Net. 2016. Josquin Des Préz. Accessed on 23rd March 2016 from





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