Nothing is known of his early life, and even the details of the years of his artistic maturity are sketchy. He may have been born in Middelburg, Zeeland, though the evidence is contradictory; certainly he was from somewhere in modern Belgium or the Netherlands. The first unambiguous reference to him is from the late 1530s, when Pierre Attaingnant published a collection of his chansons in Paris. Between March 1544 and June 1545 he worked at the Bruges cathedral, and shortly thereafter he began a business relationship with Tielman Susato, the publisher in Antwerp, which was to last for the rest of his life. From 1545 until 1549 he was probably choirmaster at the court of Charles V, where he preceded Nicolas Gombert. In 1550 he was employed by the Marian Brotherhood in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Other towns in which he may have lived and worked include Ieper, Dordrecht, and Leiden.
His nickname “non Papa” was jokingly added to distinguish him either from the contemporaneous Pope Clement VII — “Jacob Clemens — but not the Pope” — or from the poet Jacobus Papa, also from Ieper. It is possible also that the name reflected Protestant sympathies on Clemens’ part.
Details about his death are not known, but he probably died in 1555 or 1556. The 1558 text for a lament on his death composed by Jacobus Vaet implies that he was killed, though if true, the circumstances are not given. According to a 1644 source, Clemens was buried at Diksmuide near Ieper in present-day Belgium.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Clemens seems never to have traveled to Italy, with the result that Italian influence is absent in his music; he represents the northern European dialect of the Franco-Flemish style.
Clemens was one of the chief representatives of the generation between Josquin and Palestrina and Orlandus Lassus. He was a prolific composer, writing:
* 15 masses, including 14 parody masses and a requiem mass (most of which were published 1555-70 by Pierre Phalèse the Elder in Leuven); two mass sections (a Kyrie and a Credo)
* c. 233 motets
* 80 chansons
* 159 Souterliedekens (published 1556-7 by Tielman Susato in Antwerp), i.e. Dutch settings of the psalms, using popular song melodies as cantus firmus.
Of all these works, the Souterliedekens were perhaps the most widely known and influential. They were the first complete polyphonic settings of all 150 psalms in Dutch. They are generally simple, and designed to be sung by people at home; they use well-known secular tunes, including drinking songs, love songs, ballads, and other popular songs of the time; and most are for three parts. Some are frankly homophonic and homorhythmic, while others use imitation. All parts are texted, usually with one syllable per note.
The influence of Clemens was especially prominent in Germany; Lassus in particular knew his music well and incorporated elements of his style.
Edited by Grosseteste on 28 Jun 2008, 08:01
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