Machaut, Guillaume de

   French composer, poet, and priest. He was the most prominent composer in the style known as ars nova / "the new art" that dominated French music in the first half of the 14th century. He began his career as secretary to King John of Bohemia, who was killed in 1346 in the battle of Crécy. He then joined the French royal court and eventually became canon of the cathedral at Rheims. In his own time, Machaut was famous both as a poet and as a musician. Like ars nova music in general, his compositions, even those composed for liturgical use, sounded more secular than the music of the preceding century and were criticized as lascivious and as so complex that the liturgical text was obscured by the music. He wrote both monophonic and polyphonic music, for both secular and religious purposes, using many genres including motets, lais, chansons balladées or virelais, and rondeaux. Machaut was particularly important in the development of the form known as the ballade. Of special significance is his composition of one of the earliest polyphonic musical settings for the Ordinary of the mass, his Messe de Notre Dame, which may have been written for the coronation of King Charles V in 1364.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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