GUILLAUME DE MACHAUT (1300 - 1377)
Guillaume de Machaut, a leading French composer and poet of the 14th century, was born in Rheims and spent the greater part of his life there after earlier employment in the service of John of Luxemburg, King of Bohemia. He was employed subsequently by various members of the nobility, including the future Charles V of France. He held various church benefices and as a musician was pre-eminent in the period of music history known as the Ars nova, when composers created music of increased rhythmic complexity.
Machaut’s best-known composition is his Messe de Notre Dame (‘Mass of Our Lady’), an early example of a cyclic setting of the liturgical text, in which the sections are musically related. His Hoquetus David makes similar use of the technique of isorhythm, in which a given basic sequence of notes, derived normally from plainchant, is divided into a repeated rhythmic pattern. The hocket referred to in the title is a musical hiccough—a popular technical device of the time in which the musical line is interrupted by sudden rests.
Machaut was a prolific composer of secular vocal music, in the contemporary metrical and musical forms of lais, virelais, ballades and rondeaux.