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Aleyn, John [J. Alanus] (d. 1373), composer, probably came from Pattishall, Northamptonshire. He is first recorded on 29 April 1361 in possession of a chantry in the church of St James Garlickhythe, London. By Michaelmas 1362 he was a clerk and chaplain in the household chapel of ...

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Anonymous IV (fl. 1250–1280), music theorist, may have been a monk of Bury St Edmunds. He studied (or at least lived) in Paris, and, like many in contact with contemporary music there, he disseminated knowledge about the new styles when he returned to his native land. His treatise, ...

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Ashwell, Thomas (b. c. 1478, d. in or after 1524), composer, is of unknown parentage. He was admitted a chorister of St George's Chapel, Windsor, on 29 October 1491, and left on 14 January 1493; so brief a career indicates that he had been recruited by impressment, fully trained, from some other choir. Thereafter he made his career as a church musician. During 1502–3 he was a lay singing-man of the choir of the collegiate church of ...

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Jonathan Hall and Magnus Williamson

Banastre [Banaster], Gilbert (d. 1487), composer and poet, is of obscure origins, but was possibly related to (or even the son of) Henry Banaster (d. 1456) of Southwark, a yeoman of Henry VI's household. His mother, Alice, was still alive when he made his will. A birth date not later than ...

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Bedyngham, John (d. 1459/60), composer, is of unknown parentage and birth, though his name suggests a family of Norfolk origins. A hypothesis that he is identical with John Bodenham (1422–1458), scholar and fellow of New College, Oxford, has not won general acceptance. Bedyngham...

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Benet, John (d. 1458), composer, has left about twenty compositions whose style proclaims him to have been a slightly younger contemporary of John Dunstaple, perhaps a close disciple. Nothing is known of his parentage or birth and very little of his life. He may have been a vicar-choral at ...

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John Blanke (fl. 1507–1512) by unknown artist, 1511 [detail from the Westminster Tournament Roll] College of Arms, Westminster Tournament Roll. Reproduced by permission of the Kings, Heralds and Pursuivants of Arms.

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Blanke, John (fl. 1507–1512), royal trumpeter, was employed as a musician at the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII, making his first recorded appearance there in 1507. He is thought to have been of African descent, but his age, place of birth, and parentage are unknown. His surname may have originated as a nickname, derived from the word ...

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Browne, John (fl. c. 1480–c. 1505), composer, was in 1490 one of the chaplains of the household chapel of John de Vere, earl of Oxford; the identification is confirmed by a contemporary musical source in which the composer is named as '...

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Cornysh [Cornysshe], William (d. 1523), composer and court impresario, is of unknown parentage. It is likely that he was close kin, perhaps even a son, of William Cornysh [Cornysshe] (d. 1502), composer, also of unknown parentage. Nothing is known of the elder ...

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See Cornysh [Cornysshe], William

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Cotton, John [John of Afflighem] (fl. c. 1100), music theorist, was the author of a frequently cited and widely transmitted treatise, De musica, written about 1100. John and his treatise were long thought to be English on the strength of the opening words of a dedicatory letter with which the treatise begins, addressing 'Domini et patri suo venerabili Anglorum antisti [or episcopo] Fulgentio' (...

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Cú Chuimne (d. 747), canonist and hymn writer, is associated with Columba's monastery of Iona in a colophon found in the Paris manuscript Bibliothèque Nationale, MS Lat. 12021. His date of birth is unknown but his obit is recorded in 747 in the annals of ...

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Davy [Davys], Richard (d. 1521?), church musician, is of unknown origins, but rose to be one of the leading composers of his generation. All that is certain about his career is that he was instructor of the choristers at Magdalen College, Oxford, from Michaelmas 1490 until Christmas 1491; he could have held the post as early as Michaelmas 1488 and as late as Christmas 1493. It is probable, however, that he stayed no longer than the many other instructors employed by the college during the 1480s and 1490s; the position was poorly paid, and its occupants tended to move to more lucrative employment. A ...

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Dunstaple [Dunstable], John (d. 1453), composer, is of unknown origins, though his family presumably took its name from Dunstable in Bedfordshire, to which spelling modern scholarship has often adapted his name, despite the contemporary preponderance of ‘p’, including in his autograph signature. Nothing certain is known of his date of birth or early career, but his earliest works are datable to the decade 1410–20. It has often been suggested that he entered the service of ...

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Fayrfax [Fairfax], Robert (1464–1521), composer and church musician, was born on 23 April 1464 at Deeping Gate, Northamptonshire, the sixth of at least twelve children of William Fayrfax (d. 1498) and his second wife, Anne, daughter of Robert Tanfeld. The Fayrfaxes were typical minor gentry of the period, intermarrying with other armigerous families and creating ties of respect and obligation with their neighbours. The list of godparents and sponsors chosen by ...

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Folcard (d. after 1085), monk, musician, and hagiographer, was a Benedictine of St Bertin's, at St Omer in Flanders, who became acting abbot of Thorney (c.1069–85). He can be compared with Goscelin of St Bertin. All that is known of him comes from some, mostly cryptic, autobiographical remarks in the prefaces to his few extant works and a brief notice in ...

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Frye, Walter (d. 1474/5), composer, is first recorded in 1456–7, when he joined the Confraternity of St Nicholas, the London guild of parish clerks. His fellow members included the composers John Bedyngham, John Plummer, and Richard Cox. This shared membership is especially interesting since the latter two composers and ...

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Goscelin (b. c. 1035, d. in or after 1107), Benedictine monk, musician, and hagiographer, was a Fleming by birth, and joined the Benedictine order at the abbey of St Bertin in St Omer. His background is obscure. But he could have entered St Bertin...

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Hacomblen [Hacomplaynt], Robert (1455/6–1528), college head and composer, is of unknown parentage. The record of his admission in 1469, as a king's scholar, to Eton College, where he spent three years, provides all that is known of his origins: he was thirteen years old and from the parish of ...