When I was studying, I once visited a lesson about renaissance music. I learnt a thing or two, but mainly it made me more interested in the background. When I listen to it now, it sounds like a different world to me, but it is not that interesting anymore. People change.
I have been trying to read the liner notes without understanding them. Maybe it is me, try:
The great musical discovery of the 15th century, a richly harmonic style, the ‘contenance angloise’ goes back to the English composer Dunstable and to his younger Dutch contemporary Dufay. Ockeghem develops their vocal style into a pure art of horizontal lines, into an independance of self-contained single voices that has never been experienced before or later in the history of music. These ‘beautiful’ voices, melodically and rhythmically full of energy merge into far-flung movement which avoids all dividing cadences, all patterns and every form of repetition. This ‘varietas’ was een as the highest aim of this music, where no bar resembles another.
Somehow this text reminds me of the texts I had to read when I was studying. I sometimes think people in the seventies could not write. Or maybe it is just the people that were studying medieval history in that time. Maybe this is just like any other text describing music: it is hopelessly clinging to a notion it can describe music in words.
About Ockeghem himself, not much is known. He was born in present day Belgium between 1410 and 1430, and died around 1495. However, after he died, a poet wrote a lament about him saying that it was a pity he never made it to a hundred. That was in 1497, so he might have been born a bit earlier. There are about fourteen masses attributed to him.