Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)




The first great flowering of polyphonic song occurred from the middle of the fourteenth century through the fifteenth century. A few of these songs are now occasionally included in public concerts. Because of the increasing interest in performance of early music of all types at colleges, universities, and by professional groups, it is important for students and teachers of singing to be exposed to this body of literature. The study of solo songs offers a convenient beginning. This study presents a small collection of French chansons from the early to the middle fifteenth century, each for solo voice with two accompanying contrapuntal lines. The composers represented are Gilles Binchois (ca. 1400-1460), Guillaume Dufay (ca. 1398-1474), John Dunstable (ca. 1390-1453), Richard Loqueville (d. 1418), and Gilet Velut (fl. 15th century). Two anonymous chansons from the Chansonnier El Escorial have also been included. Fifteen pieces have been evaluated for their pedagogical potential for today's students of singing. Particular topics which have been addressed are range, melodic content and construction, length and shape of phrases, and rhythmic complexities. It has been found that the tessituras tend to emphasize the middle register, and that the phrases often are long with some coloratura, therefore encouraging the development of breath control and flexibility. Also, the melodies tend to move stepwise with few leaps, and the rhythms constantly alternate between groups of two and three beats. The literature, therefore, offers many possibilities for development of the basic musical skills, sightsinging and counting. The study includes a discussion of the differences between modern and fifteenth-century pronunciation of the French, and information regarding fifteenth-century performance practices, including the fitting of texts to music, the adding or deleting of accidentals, and the selecting the instrumental accompaniment. Each of the chansons in the collection is prefaced by a short biographical sketch of the composer, an indication of the form (e.g., rondeau or ballade), a suggestion as to the appropriate voice and instrumental accompaniment, a word-by-word translation presented in the appropriate fixed form (e.g., rondeau or ballade), and an International Phonetic Alphabet transcription of the early fifteenth-century French.