Clément Janequin (1485-1558) was a significant French composer during the Renaissance, especially in the development of the Parisian chanson. Janequin was quite prolific in chansons and other poetic songs. Influenced by the resurrgence in art, music, poetry and dance, Janequin began to incorporate programmatic elements as well as imitations of nature in his chansons. Over the span of his career, Janequin composed over 250 chansons. Janequin was known for his creativity as well as his ability to smoothly lengthen musical ideas in order to bring out musical effects.
Le chant des oiseaux (1520) is one of the most performed chansons in Janequin's collection of works. This particular work employs several programmatic elements such as "word painting," imitation and bird sounds in place of actual words. The singing lyrical lines as well as the fast rhythmic figures are meant to tell of story of the birdsong, who awakens sleeping hearts after a long winter slumber. The whimsical piece is separated into five sections, each ending with a clear cadential arrival, and each section a little bit longer than that last. Janequin did this on purpose as an imagery device, representing progressively growing bird calls.
In addition to Le chant des oieaux, Janequin's other heavily programmatic chanson is entitled, La Guerre. Though both pieces are composed of several programmatic devices and stylistic imagery, La Guerre is supposed to depict a battle between two fueding groups. Sounds of trumpets, drums, cannons and national anthems (all sounded by voice) are interspersed within the entire work.
It is interesting to me that such strong programmatic styles and devices were present this early on. Janequin's musical innovations were clearly very progressive for the time. Since he was on of the first composers to introduce musical imagery and onamatopeic elements, I'm sure Janequin was probably looked at as a pioneer in his field.
Françon, Marcel. "Music and Poetry in the French Renaissance." The French Review, Vol. 12, No. 5 (Mar., 1939): American Association of Teachers of French. http://www.jstor.org/stable/380763
Sharp, G.B. "Janequin and the Parisian Chanson: A Quincentenary Note." The Musical Times. Vol 116, No. 1594 (Dec, 1975). http://www.jstor.org/stable/959428
Woodstra, Chris, Gerald Brennan, Allen Schrott. All Music Guide to Classical Music: The Definitive Guide to Classical Music. Hal Leonard Corporation (2005). Print.