Dufay, Guillaume

Born about 1400-1474

One of the most important names in the history of music. "Until the last few years," says Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, " the personal identity of the great leader of the first Flemish school was surrounded by doubts and the statement of Baini that Dufay sang in the Papal choir from 1380 to 1432 has misled many writers."

The facts, according to Grove and the best authorities are, that he was born in Hainault and was a chorister in the Cathedral of Cambrai, and was transferred to the Papal choir at Rome in 1428, remaining there nine years. In 1437 he entered the service of Philippe le bon, Duke of Burgundy, as music tutor to his son, Charles. He took holy orders in Paris  and lived in Savoy for seven years. According to Adam of Fulda, Dufay made many changes in notation and is the reputed inventor of white or open notes. One writer, Fr. X. Haberl, gives a list of one hundred and fifty compositions of Dufay found in the libraries of Rome, Trieste and Bologna, including masses, (finished and fragmentary), motets, a magnificat, French chansons and church music. Haberl also identifies sixtytwo manuscripts in the library at Bologna, twenty-five at the University at Bologna, and thirty more, in other collections, among them the libraries of Brussels, Paris, Cambrai and Munich. Dufay died at Cambrai. With Dufay the influence of popular taste upon ecclesiastical music first took shape. He wrote masses founded upon melodies associated with the songs of the people and gave to church music a definite rhythm such as could be produced only by the influence of the popular songs of the time.

The best contribution and the most recent to the literature of Dufay and his time, is Dufay and His Contemporaries, by Sir John Stainer, which was published in 1898 and which contains a summary of the events of his life and nineteen compositions from a manuscript in the Bodleian Library.