Intellectual Property & Creative Research

Josquin des Prez

Born circa 1440; died, August 27th 1521.


Musicians have been composing a form of fractal music for at least six centuries. Motivic scaling was familiar to many of the great Flemish composers such a Johannes Ockeghem and Josquin des Prez who developed the art of the mensuration or prolation canon. This type of canon is characterized by a melody or rhythmic motif that is repeated in different voices simultaneously at different tempos. To be clear, not all mensuration canons are fractal; there are fundamental requirements that must be met in order to classify an object as such.

Josquin des Prez was a Franco-Flemish composer, widely considered to be the most important and influential of the Renaissance period.  Scholars often refer to his creative genius, inviting comparisons to Beethoven.  During his lifetime he was highly sought after and regarded by many to be the greatest of all composers, past or present.

Below is an excerpt from a three-part mensuration canon by Josquin.  Taking the top voice as a reference, the middle voice progresses one third as fast.  The bottom voice moves twice as fast as the middle voice, or two thirds the speed of the top voice.

Also included are MIDI files of each part.  The single voices have been assigned clearly discernable timbres so that the listener can more easily identify the individual parts when played together.  Finally a "choral" version is included to give a better sense of the composer's intention.

Excerpt from the Agnus Dei of Josquin's first Missa l'homme armé:

  Voice I
  Voice II
  Voice III
  All Voices

Thank you to Antandrus for the notation of the above excerpt.

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Fractal Music here.