top of page

You ass, why do you add ornamentation?

An entertaining story about Josquin Despres, the famous Franco-Flemish composer of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, who by his behaviour resembled a famous Ukrainian composer who lived some 500 years apart in the future:

'When Josquin was living at Cambrai and someone wanted to apply ornaments in his music which he had not composed, he walked into the choir and sharply berated him in front of the others, saying: "You ass, why do you add ornamentation? If it had pleased me, I would have inserted it myself. If you wish to amend properly composed songs, make your own, but leave mine unamended!'

But what is interesting, perhaps, is not so much the story itself, as the fact that different scholars of early music (and, accordingly, ensembles) draw sometimes opposite conclusions from it. Roughly speaking, for some people it is an evidence of the fact that ornamentation and any "ornaments" in the music of that period has little place and must be performed without excessive amateurism—here is a historical document, the composer tells us about it, while for others it is evidence, first of all, of an exception from the rule—ornamentation was widespread, and Josquin's behaviour turned out so eccentric, that a myth was created about him, which was written down and came down to us.

8 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Suppose you want to bring down the area

William Burroughs prophesies Twitter more than 30 years before it was invented: suppose you want to bring down the area go in and record all the ugliest stupidest dialogue the most discordant sound tr

The past never gives us direct access to the past

'Nevertheless, Early Music is potentially this kind of performance practice or listening experience which doesn't believe in the so-called original, authentic experience of the contemporary moment, bu


I keep hearing the same argument in the West regarding Ukraine's problematic past, both the second world war and a more recent one. As if it justifies the atrocities Russia is committing in Ukraine's


bottom of page