The Buxheim Organ Book

ornate music of the xvth century

At the beginning of the xvth century flourished a new school of polyphony which was to give rise to Franco-flemish polyphony. This occurred in parallel to the great technical and mechanical developments in organ building which endowed that instru- ment with an importance without precedent. The Buxheimer Orgelbuch (c. 1460), at the crossroads of both fields, is one of the first known collections of music for organ. For the most part, it contains adaptations of songs, mainly from the Burgundian and Germanic repertoires, which establish important links between vocal polyphony and instrumental music. At the time, organists did not hesitate to play secular songs in the liturgy, ornamenting them with formulas either written or improvised. The converse is also true: singers could re-use these airs and set religious texts to them. The juxtaposition of the two repertoires brings to light the close relation between sacred and profane music, vocal and instrumental music and written and improvised music.

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