L Homme Armé: Music Analysis

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L’homme armé
Surviving today in music manuscripts of the late fifteenth century and beyond are more than thirty-five polyphonic Masses built on the popular tune of L’homme armé. Wright & Simms (2010) reported that composers borrowed this melody more often for religious purposes than any other piece of music. Pierce (2011) asserted that the composer of the original monophonic melody L’homme armé, while unknown, created the piece around the 10th century near Burgundy, east-central France and later discovered in the 14 century. Although the cantus firmus L’homme armé formed the basis for masses of the renaissance era, this French secular song continues to inspire composers of the 21st century.
Guillaume DuFay (c.1397- 1474), a native of the Cambrai
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Pierce (2011) argues that during the early part of the 15th century, the masses are composed in accordance to an altered meaning of the chanson. Wright & Simms (2010) reported that when placed in a Mass, the soldier of the Armed Man tune becomes the Christian soldier: be he a crusader about to fight the Turks, or an everyday Christian soul who wages a daily war with the devil and the sin of temptation. In a larger theological sense, the Armed Man, the ultimate warrior, Christ himself. This idea became so popular among sacred composers that a race to see who can incorporate it first began.
According to Pierce (2011), the use of l’homme armé for the first time in a mass cycle sparked a point of argument, partly due to erratic publishing practices of the time. Several composers attempted to claim themselves as the first to compose a l’homme armé mass including Johannes Regis (c. 1425 - c. 1496), Guillaume Du Fay, and Johannes Ockeghem (c.1410 - 1497). Despite the argument over who composed their mass first, according to Pierce (2011) the most popular of these masses are Dufay’s, Ockeghem’s, and one composed 20 years later by Josquin de Prez

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