Paolo da Firenze
Paolo da Firenze (c. 1355 – after September 20, 1436) was an Italian
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 composer and music theorist
Music theory
Music theory is the study of how music works. It examines the language and notation of music. It seeks to identify patterns and structures in composers' techniques across or within genres, styles, or historical periods...

 of the late 14th and early 15th centuries, the transition from the musical Medieval
Medieval music
Medieval music is Western music written during the Middle Ages. This era begins with the fall of the Roman Empire and ends sometime in the early fifteenth century...

 era to the Renaissance
Renaissance music
Renaissance music is European music written during the Renaissance. Defining the beginning of the musical era is difficult, given that its defining characteristics were adopted only gradually; musicologists have placed its beginnings from as early as 1300 to as late as the 1470s.Literally meaning...

. More surviving music of the Italian ars nova
Ars nova
Ars nova refers to a musical style which flourished in France and the Burgundian Low Countries in the Late Middle Ages: more particularly, in the period between the preparation of the Roman de Fauvel and the death of the composer Guillaume de Machaut in 1377...

is attributable to Paolo than to any other composer except for Francesco Landini
Francesco Landini
Francesco degli Organi, Francesco il Cieco, or Francesco da Firenze, called by later generations Francesco Landini or Landino was an Italian composer, organist, singer, poet and instrument maker...



An unusual amount of biographical information is available for Paolo; while details of the lives of composers of the 14th century are usually sparse, and often nonexistent, recent discovery of a richly illuminated manuscript of Paolo's music, as well as his will, have allowed biographers to piece together a basic outline. Paolo was born in Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

; his father's name was Marco, he was most likely from a humble family, and he had three brothers. When he resigned as abbot on June 16, 1433 he was seventy-eight years old, giving his approximate birthdate as 1355.

He became a Benedictine around 1380, and the portrait of him in the Squarcialupi Codex
Squarcialupi Codex
The Squarcialupi Codex is an illuminated manuscript compiled in Florence, Italy in the early 15th century...

shows him in a Benedictine black cassock; and on March 8, 1401, he took the post of abbot at S. Martin al Pino. Before 1417 he became the rector at Orbetello
Orbetello is a town and comune in the province of Grosseto , Italy. It is located c. 35 km south of Grosseto, on the eponymous lagoon, which is home to an important Natural Reserve.-History:...

, a post he probably retained until around 1427. In the first decade of the 15th century, probably close to 1410, while in Florence, he supervised the compilation of Squarcialupi Codex, the single most important source of music in Italy in the 14th century.

Paolo died in Florence. Since his will was dated September 21, 1436, he either died on that date or later, at an extremely advanced age (eighty-one) for the time.

Music and influence

Most of Paolo's music was published in modern editions in the 1970s, making it easily available, and as a result he has received more than the usual amount of critical attention. His music had both progressive and conservative aspects. While most of his surviving music is secular, and all of it vocal, two sacred compositions (a Benedicamus Domino for two voices, and a Gaudeamus omnes in Domino for three) have also survived. How much is lost is impossible to guess, but the 14th century saw an explosion of interest in notated secular music in Italy, and the proportional survival of his secular to sacred work may well represent the actual trend.

His secular compositions are of three types: thirteen madrigal
Madrigal (Trecento)
The Madrigal is an Italian musical form of the 14th century. The form flourished ca. 1300 – 1370 with a short revival near 1400. It was a composition for two voices, sometimes on a pastoral subject...

s, forty-six ballate
The ballata is an Italian poetic and musical form, which was in use from the late 13th to the 15th century. It has the musical structure AbbaA, with the first and last stanzas having the same texts. It is thus most similar to the French musical 'forme fixe' virelai...

(some of which are fragmentary, and others of which have the ascription to Paolo erased in the source), and five miscellaneous secular songs. All of his music is for two or three voices, and all is datable through sources or stylistic features to the period before 1410. Whether he did any composing after 1410 is not known.

The most puzzling question about any source of Paolo's music is the presence in the Squarcialupi Codex, the compilation of which he probably supervised, of thirty-two pages, all with his name on the top, his portrait in the front, and containing nothing but empty staves. It has been suggested that his music was not available by the deadline for completion; but yet the blank pages remain. Hoppin (p. 466) suggests that Paolo actually was outside of Florence when the manuscript was compiled, in the service of Cardinal Acciaiuoli, and this may account for the missing music.

Paolo's madrigals combine Italian and French notation, and show considerable influence of the Avignon
Avignon is a French commune in southeastern France in the départment of the Vaucluse bordered by the left bank of the Rhône river. Of the 94,787 inhabitants of the city on 1 January 2010, 12 000 live in the ancient town centre surrounded by its medieval ramparts.Often referred to as the...

Mannerism is a period of European art that emerged from the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520. It lasted until about 1580 in Italy, when a more Baroque style began to replace it, but Northern Mannerism continued into the early 17th century throughout much of Europe...

 school of the ars subtilior
Ars subtilior
Ars subtilior is a musical style characterized by rhythmic and notational complexity, centered around Paris, Avignon in southern France, also in northern Spain at the end of the fourteenth century. The style also is found in the French Cypriot repertory...

in their complex and intricate rhythmic patterns; however most of them are for only two voices, a conservative choice. The ballate are more progressively done overall; most are for three voices, and are lyrical, melodic, but yet use some of the extreme rhythmic intricacies of the ars subtilior
Ars subtilior
Ars subtilior is a musical style characterized by rhythmic and notational complexity, centered around Paris, Avignon in southern France, also in northern Spain at the end of the fourteenth century. The style also is found in the French Cypriot repertory...

school. The influence of Landini, hard to avoid for any Florentine composer late in the 14th century, is evident both in the madrigals and the ballate.
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