Inside the Music | Contenance Angloise | Medieval Era | Classical
The term contenance angloise (‘English manner’), was first coined by the poet Martin Le Franc in his poem ‘Le Champion des Dames’ (c. 1440–42), in which he described new French music and implied that Du Fay and Binchois had ‘taken on the contenance angloise and followed Dunstaple’. Although the poet did not define the term, the text immediately before this passage speaks of the ‘elegant concord’ in the new music. This seems to accord with one of the most striking characteristics of English music in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries: the harmonic predominance of thirds and sixths. In contrast, the third was still treated as a kind of dissonance in continental music. Fourths and fifths – which sound bare and austere to modern ears – were considered the consonant intervals. Another feature of the English style that was partly taken over by continental composers was the use of long duet sections in pieces for three or four voices.
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