Session 8 (Themed Papers): Josquin at five-hundred: The lost years

Monday, 5 July 2021, 17.00-18.30, Room 219 | Respondent: Joshua Rifkin (Boston University)

Session Abstract

For all the recent advances in our knowledge about Josquin des Prez, questions of biography and attribution persist. Unresolved gaps in the historical record loom large over our conversation. The period between the composer’s service in Rome and Ferrara (ca. 1495–1503) has proven particularly puzzling; little documentary evidence guides us through these “lost years.”

This session addresses the problem of the canon while refining our picture of Josquin’s employment in France and his role in the development of the French- court motet. We aim to urge forward implications for Josquin’s biography and canon, reconsidering what is known in light of fresh perspectives on sources, style, and historical and cultural context. Thus equipped, we reassess several significant— if in some cases perplexing—pieces from the “lost years” in the hopes of developing a more convincing narrative for this consequential middle period.

The Josquin canon at five-hundred | Jesse Rodin (Stanford University)

No less contentious today than half a century ago, the Josquin canon has sparked confusion since well before the composer’s death. Although modern scholars have repeatedly confronted the problem, until recently it has not been possible to tackle it from the ground up. This paper proposes a practical methodology for doing so. The methodology yields a work list, in which music attributed to Josquin is classified by degrees of confidence. The list, in turn, can help us approach the heterogeneous and in some ways baffling collection of works that would seem to date from Josquin’s “lost years” (ca. 1495–1503).

Finding Josquin in France | Jeannette D. Jones (College of the Holy Cross)

After Josquin left the papal chapel, the few extant historical records reveal little about his whereabouts, apart from brief sightings in France and Burgundy. His name, however, does appear in another kind of document: poems. French and Burgundian poets of the rhétoriqueur school often used a list of objects or names as a stylistic device to outline what is known about an area or topic; Josquin’s name appears ion several poetic lists of contemporary musicians. Many of these poems perform significant rhetorical functions. Aligning them with the documented movements of the poets and the French royal court opens up persuasive scenarios for Josquin’s activities in France during these lost years.

Josquin des Prez and the origins of the French-Court motet | Brett Kostrzewski (Boston University)

In his article “A Black Hole? Problems in the Motet around 1500,” Joshua Rifkin identifies paired duos as the salient stylistic feature of a new motet style that emerged rather suddenly at the French royal court soon after 1500. I suggest that the fundamental principle behind these paired duos is the literal repetition of text and music, line by line. This technique appears in almost all of Josquin’s motets, spanning his entire composing career. I consider three exceptions—Liber generationis, Factum est autem, and Stabat mater—and their implications for Josquin’s biography and the chronology of his works during the lost years.