Journal of the American Musicological Society, Vol. 65, Number 1, pp. 5–66 ISSN 0003-0139, electronic ISSN 1547-
3848. © 2012 by the American Musicological Society. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to
photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press’s Rights and Permissions website,
www.ucpressjournals.com/reprintInfo.asp. DOI: 10.1525/jams.2012.65.1.5.
Who Was “Prioris”? A Royal Composer
The change of the watch sounded on the castello. In the morning sun every-
thing seemed cool, brisk and simple. Beneath the shaded gallery in front of San
Pietro there was lively activity; hawkers were calling out fresh wheatcakes and
dried ﬁsh for sale, but even more prayer medallions and wax candles were being
slung about. Ecclesiastics of every variety were walking about, and the soldiers
stayed in a guardhouse by the gate. The church had lost its ghostliness, even if
the golden saints now watched us more intensely with attentive, unfaded eyes.
Someone was playing the organ. We ascended to the organ loft and found a
small, withered man with a brushlike crown of hair around his heavy skull, sit-
ting on the organ bench without his feet touching the ground. He wore a robe
and looked at us with excessive suspicion over the horn rims of his glasses; he
even slowed his playing for a moment, and stopped entirely when out of our
group Josquin approached him. “Play on, play, Master Prioris,” said Josquin.
The research for the present study was carried out in large measure during the tenure of a fel-
lowship from Le STUDIUM (Région centre, France) in connection with the Centre d’Études
Supérieures de la Renaissance (Université François Rabelais, Tours) in 2006. Earlier versions were
presented at All Souls College, Oxford; Utrecht University; the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven;
the Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society, 2007; and Princeton University.
Among the colleagues who have provided feedback, suggestions, materials, and corrections to
my ideas, I would like to thank in particular Jane Alden, Margaret Bent, Camilla Cavicchi, Marie-
Alexis Colin, Frank Dobbins, David Fallows, David Fiala, Paula Higgins, Andrew Kirkman,
Agostino Magro, Vladimír Manˇas, Grantley McDonald, Alejandro Planchart, Joshua Rifkin,
Richard Wexler, and this Journal’s anonymous readers.
Given the large number of references to manuscripts and prints, I use standard abbreviations
throughout (see the Appendix). Translations and transcriptions are mine unless otherwise indi-
cated. All music transcriptions are given in modern clefﬁng and 2:1 reduction, with measures
numbered according to breves of the original notation, even when based on modern editions with
different editorial policies. I have in some cases modified the editorial accidentals and text place-
ment of the modern editions used.
A note on dates with two years (e.g., 1507/8): in these cases the New Style dating (year
changes on 1 January) is at odds with the date recorded in the primary source (year changes at
Easter); the ﬁrst year is as recorded in the document (1507) and the second is the modern dating
1. “Op het kasteel werd de aﬂossing van de wacht geblazen. In de morgenzon leek alles koel,
monter en eenvoudig. Onder de beschaduwde zuilengang voor de Sint Pieter was groot vertier,
venters riepen er verse tarwekoeken en gedroogde vis te koop uit, maar er werden nog meer bid-
penningen en waskaarsen gesleten. Er liepen weer geestelijken van alle pluimage, de soldeniers
bleven in een wachthuis bij de poort. De kerk had het spookachtige verloren, al keken de gouden