Guillaume de Machaut

From Academic Kids

Guillaume de Machaut (around 13001377), was a French poet and composer of the late Medieval era. He was the most famous and historically significant representative of the musical movement known as the ars nova, and was especially influential in the development of motets and secular song (chanson).



Machaut was probably born and educated in Rheims. He was employed as secretary to John, Count of Luxembourg and King of Bohemia, from 1323 to 1346; in addition he became a priest sometime during this period. Most likely he accompied King John on his various trips, many of them military expeditions, around Europe. He was named as the canon of Verdun in 1330, Arras in 1332 and Rheims in 1333. By 1340 Machaut was living in Rheims, having relinquished his other canonic posts at the request of Pope Benedict XII. In 1346, King John was killed fighting at the Battle of Crcy, and Machaut, who was famous and much in demand, entered the service of various other aristocrats and rulers including the future King Charles V.

Machaut survived the Black Death which devastated Europe, and spent his later years living in Rheims composing and recopying his manuscripts. Evidently he had a late love affair with a 19-year-old girl, Pronne d'Armentires, which he immortalized in his autobiographical poem Le Voir Dit (probably 1361-1365). When he died in 1377, other composers such as Franois Andrieu wrote elegies lamenting his death.


His poetic output includes two large cycles, Le Remède de Fortune (The Cure of Ill Fortune) and Le Voir Dit (A True Story).


Machaut was by far the most famous composer of the 14th century. His secular song output includes monophonic lais and virelais, which continue, in updated forms, some of the tradition of the troubadors. However, his work in the polyphonic forms of the ballade and rondeau was more significant historically.

Machaut also wrote the first Mass which can be attributed to a single composer, his Messe de Nostre Dame (Mass of Our Lady).

References and further reading

  • Article "Guillaume de Machaut," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie. 20 vol. London, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1980. ISBN 1561591742
  • Richard H. Hoppin, Medieval Music. New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1978. ISBN 0393090906
  • Harold Gleason and Warren Becker, Music in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (Music Literature Outlines Series I). Bloomington, Indiana.

External link

de:Guillaume de Machaut eo:Guillaume de MACHAUT fr:Guillaume de Machaut nl:Guillaume de Machault ja:ギヨーム・ド・マショー pl:Guillaume de Machaut


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