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Franco-Flemish School

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Title: Franco-Flemish School  
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Subject: Renaissance music, List of Renaissance composers, Hornpipe (instrument), Lute, 15th century
Collection: Composition Schools, Renaissance in the Low Countries, Renaissance Music, Walloon Culture
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Franco-Flemish School

In music, the Franco-Flemish School or more precisely the Netherlandish School refers, somewhat imprecisely, to the style of polyphonic vocal music composition in the Burgundian States (Burgundy, Picardy, Burgundian Flanders, ...) in the 15th and early 16th centuries, and to the composers who wrote it.

The composers of this time and place, and the music they produced, are also known as the "Franco Flemish School", more precisely the Netherlandish School. Most of these musicians were born in Hainaut, Flanders, Brabant or Picardy. During periods of political stability, such as the Burgundian Netherlands, this was a center of cultural activity, although the exact centers shifted location during this time, and by the end of the sixteenth century the focal point of the Western musical world shifted from this region to Italy.

While many of the composers were born in the region loosely known as the "Low Countries", they were famous for working elsewhere. Flemings moved to Italy where they were called "I fiamminghi" or Oltremontani ("those from over the Alps"), to Spain - notably in the Flemish chapel (capilla flamenca) of the Habsburgs, to towns in Germany and France and other parts of Europe - Poland, the Czech lands, Austria, Hungary, England, Sweden, Denmark, Saxony - carrying their styles with them. The diffusion of their technique, especially after the revolutionary development of printing, produced the first true international style since the unification of Gregorian chant in the 9th century.

Following are five groups, or generations, that are sometimes distinguished in the Franco-Flemish/Netherlandish school. Development of this musical style was continuous, and these generations only provide useful reference points.

Josquin des Prez, Petrus Opmeer's woodcut

The Franco-Flemish motet

Composed between 1450 and 1520, these motets were typically written for four voices, with all voices being equal. They often exhibit thick, dark textures, with an extended low range. The most notable composers of this style include Ockeghem and Josquin, whose De profundis clamavi ad te, composed between 1500 and 1521, provides a good example.


  • The New Harvard Dictionary of Music.
  • A History of Music and Musical Style, by Homer Ulrich & Paul Pisk (1963). New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanoich. ISBN 0-15-537720-5.
  • Register of Polyphonists out of The Low countries/the Netherlands born in between 1400-1600
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