Music 220: Josquin des Prez and the Historical Record

Instructor: Emily Zazulia

Josquin des Prez (c. 1450–1521) was arguably the first internationally famous composer, thanks in part to his extensive travels as well as the explosion of music printing and a new international market for music. And yet this very fame, which lasted well into the sixteenth century, has caused the historical record to be weighted in favor of Josquin’s posthumous reputation. From the very beginning of musicology as a modern field, scholars unwittingly brought about a story that turns out to be more interesting from the perspective of reception history than with respect to the historical figure. In this seminar, we will build a foundation that allows us to ask anew: Who was Josquin?

Although the historical details will be specific to Josquin, many of the problems we will encounter are utterly common. Our activities will be geared toward developing students’ skills in historical inquiry and reasoning—skills that will serve them well regardless of specialization.