Dunstable, John

Period: Medieval

Born: c. 1390 in Dunstable, England

Died: Saturday, December 24, 1453 in London, England

Nation of Origin: United Kingdom

Major Works:

Quam pulchra es
Ave regina caelorum
Veni Sancte Spiritus (a motet using the isorhythm technique)

Bukofzer assembled and edited his complete works – about 60 works are known.

  1. Isorhythmic motets (12 in all, including his most famous motet which combines the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus and the sequence Veni Sancte Spiritus, in a 4-part setting.)
  2. Sections of the Ordinary
  3. Secular songs (Je languis en piteux martire)
  4. 3-part settings of miscellaneous liturgical texts (most numerous), Quam pulchra es [Norton Anthology of Western Music # 25] exemplifies his style – all three voices are of equal importance and generally move together in conductus style (although in most of his other works the two lower voices are supportive, moving slower than the treble). Use of thirds both melodically and harmonically as in the style of fauxbourdon. The instability of the 4th degree foreshadows mature tonal harmony.

    Other Information:

    He was probably born in Dunstable, Bedfordshire in England sometime between 1380 and 1390. He died in London. He was a composer, mathematician, and astrologer. He worked for various royalty and traveled through England and France. Part of his life was probably spent serving the English Duke of Bedford, Regent of France from 1422 to 1435 and commander of the English army that fought against Joan of Arc. Dunstable is known as a composer of declamatory motets in which the natural rhythm of the text heavily influences the rhythms of the music. His work is considered to be of reputation similar to that of Binchois and Dufay. Together with Binchois and Dufay he is classifed as belonging to the Burgundian School of late Medieval/early Renaissance composition.

    General Bibliography:

    Reese, Gustave, Music in the Middle Ages : With an Introduction on the Music of Ancient Times, W.W. Norton & Company, October 1940, ISBN: 0393097501

    Sachs, Curt, The Rise of Music in the Ancient World, W. W. Norton & Company, 1943, ASIN: 0393097188

    Seay, Albert, Music in the Medieval World, W. W. Norton & Company, 1943, ASIN: 0393097188

    Slonimsky, Nicolas and Kuhn, Laura; Editors, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Gale Group, December 2000, ISBN: 0028655257

    Sadie, Stanley and Tyrrell, John; Editors, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Groves Dictionaries, Inc., January 2004, ISBN: 0195170679

    Rutherford-Johnson, Tim, Kennedy, Michael, and Kennedy, Joyce The Oxford Dictionary of Music, Oxford University Press, 6th Edition, 2012, ISBN: 0199578109

    Links to essays at other sites:

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    Biographical essay from Wikipedia

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