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Guillaume de Machaut

Machaut, Guillaume de (gēyōmˈ də mäshōˈ) [key], c.1300–1377, French poet and composer. Variants of his name include Machault, de Machaudio, and de Mascaudio. He studied theology and took holy orders. In the service of King John of Bohemia he traveled through Europe on chivalric expeditions. Later, while in the service of King Charles of Navarre, he wrote the long narrative poems Confort d'ami and Le Jugement du roi de Navarre. The recipient of numerous papal benefices, Machaut was canon at Reims from 1340 until his death. In Le Livre du voir dit (1361–65) he wrote a long poem of courtly love with musical interpolations. Considered the greatest French musician of the 14th cent. and the exponent of ars nova style in France, he wrote lais, motets, ballads, rondeaux, virelais, and one mass. He contributed to the secularization of the motet by using French texts of courtly love instead of Latin liturgy. Most important perhaps was his skillful use of rhythm with counterpoint, which made his music widely known and admired. His mass, the first complete polyphonic version, was still in use in the 16th cent. and led to the great masses of Josquin Desprez and Palestrina.

See analytical biography by E. E. Leach (2011).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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