Guillaume de Machaut

(c. 1300 - 1377)

Leader of the French Ars Nova, was the most important composer of the 14th century.  In addition to being a musician, Machaut was also a poet and theologian, holding many important ecclesiastical posts.  Among Machaut's musical innovations was the development of more lyric melodies and a more suave harmonic texture using thirds and sixths to soften the dissonance of earlier organum.  He was the first to compose a complete polyphonic setting of the Ordinary of the Mass with some degree of unity among sections.  He wrote in all the musical forms of his time, sacred and secular.  Among the secular forms, he excelled in the ballade, bringing to it an ingenuity of imitation, a sonorous harmony, and an expressive melody that foreshadowed Renaissance style.

(see the Article entry)