150 years before Bach was even born, music known as Counterpoint was being written by a man named Orlando di Lasso. This song is called Illumina Oculos Meos, which translates to “Enlighten my eyes lest I sleep in Death.” It has just four lines of music, the only flat is B-Flat, and the only sharps are F#, C#,and G#. He manages to go through many different key changes using only those four accidentals.
Orlando di Lasso was a Franco-Flemish composer of the late Renaissance. Along with Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina he is today considered to be the chief representative of the mature polyphonic style of the Netherlands school, and he was the most famous and influential musician in Europe at the end of the 16th century.
Compare that to this Bach Chorale:
I love Bach’s music, but I have to admit (or do I?) that I find Counterpoint to be much more interesting than a chorale. Maybe that is because Chorales were written so that just regular people could sing them in church. What’s that? I’m preaching to the choir, you say?
If you are interested in learning more about the rules of counterpoint, check this out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counterpoint#First_species
Orlando di Lasso was born in Mons in the province of Hainaut, in what is today Belgium. Information about his early years is minimal, although some uncorroborated stories have survived, the most famous of which is that he was kidnapped three times because of the singular beauty of his singing voice. At the age of 12 he left the Low Countries with Ferrante Gonzaga and went to Mantua, Sicily, and later Milan (from 1547 to 1549). While in Milan he made the acquaintance of the madrigalist Hoste da Reggio, an influence which was formative on his early musical style. According to the dates listed below, this song would be considered a Renaissance Music composition.
Musical Periods: The History of Classical Music
- Medieval (1150 – 1400)
- Renaissance (1400 – 1600)
- Baroque (1600 – 1750)
- Classical (1750 – 1820)
- Romantic (1820 – 1900)
Here is a painting that is around the same age as this music (not scary at all….):
For more on the Renaissance Composer: https://bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Lasso-Orlando.htm
For more on the Renaissance Artist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domenico_di_Michelino