Alexander Agricola (ca. 1445-1506), originally called Alexander Ackerman, appeared sporadically in history. A Flemish composer, he spent time at the Cambrai Cathedral from 1475-76, and shows up in Mantua and Florence, Italy in 1491. By 1500, he worked at the Burgundian courts, but died in 1506 in Valladolid. Considered a contemporary of Josquin, Agricola was not as prolific in his lifetime as other composers of this era, but over 80 songs and instrumental pieces remain extant. He composed in all genres of the time, with the majority of his works in formes fixes. Much of his instrumental music was based on secular pieces by Binchois or Ockeghem.
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In mijnen sin is a Dutch chanson in 3 voices. Agricola also composed a mass with the same name, (Missa in myne zin) and used the thematic chanson material in the mass. As is characteristic of Agricola’s formes fixes, the range for the lower voice is expanded considerably, encompassing G2 to D4 in the Contratenor voice. Other facets of Agricola’s compositions include repetition of short rhythmic and motivic phrases, both of which are present in the stanzas of this chanson. The final line of each stanza of the chanson is a duplicate in each: So waer ick vro, daer ick nu trueren moet. (I would be glad, whereas I am now in distress.) Points of imitation, seen in many Renaissance pieces, appear in several areas of the stanza, but are most obvious in the repeated last line.
Several other composers of the Renaissance used polyphonic settings of this tune. Agricola’s three-voice chanson appears dated earliest, around 1460-70. Antoine Busnoy composed a four-part Flemish song, which was published in 1504. Agricola then composed a four-voice mass based on the theme. Also in the sacred genre, Josquin used a French version of this song for a three-part setting and Heinrich Isaac composed two four-part paraphrases.
The Dutch text in this chanson caught my attention. Within the three voices, there are minimal places where the text is difficult to understand. Echoing in the tenor voice, at the beginning of alternating stanza’s line, the remaining text is sung simultaneously. This seems to put Agricola slightly ahead of his time, in coherency and clarity of the chanson text.
Christofferson, Peter Woetmann. “The Restoration of Antoine Busnoys’ four-part Flemish Song “In mijnen sinj”:An experiment in sound, imitation technique, and the setting of a popular tune.” Danish Musicology Online 2 (2011) 21-51. Accessed February 8, 2014. http://www.danishmusicologyonline.dk/arkiv/arkiv_dmo/dmo_02/dmo_02_artikel_02.pdf.
den Teuling, Arnold. In mijnen sin. September 2011. http://imslp.org/wiki/In_mijnen_sin_%28Agricola,_Alexander%29.
McComb, Todd M. AlexanderAgricola (1446-1506): A Discography. November 2001. http://www.medieval.org/emfaq/composers/agricola.html.
Wegman, Rob C. et al. "Agricola, Alexander." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Accessed February 8, 2014, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/52210.