JEAN JAPART (1474 - 1507)
The first quarter of the sixteenth century is notable in the history of keyboard music for the many collections throughout Europe that give special emphasis to the transcription of vocal music into tablature, a form of notation using letters, numerals, and diagrams to specify pitch and rhythmic values for performance at the keyboard. Their cultivation was indicative of the growing importance of keyboard music, particularly among amateur musicians who did not possess the skills at improvisation. This factor explains, perhaps, the paucity of original written compositions for the keyboard from a time generally rich in music manuscripts.
One of the largest tablature collections is the St Galler Orgelbuch, containing many adaptations of the most popular vocal compositions of the day, including chansons and motets by great and lesser composers of the Franco-Flemish school. Its compiler-scribe, Fridolin Sidler (1490-1546), was a working organist in the region of Constance. The works by Loyset Compère (c.1445-1518) and singer-composer Jean Japart (fl.c.1474-?1507) show how a technically satisfactory keyboard texture is created from a vocal model.