Sometimes a music historian must act like an archaeologist. Absolutely no known archival documents, for instance, give any biographical information about a late fourteenth century French composer named Solage. Yet he must have been an eminent figure in French royal circles. One important music manuscript from late in the century credits him with at least a tenth of all its music. So from this fragment of an artifact, the historian makes whateverRead more implications are possible. Something of Solage's life and circumstances may be inferred from the manuscript itself. The so-called Chantilly Codex, a rich presentation manuscript of 100 French songs and motets from the last decades of the century, breathes the essence of French royal and noble courtly life. Though it was copied by an expatriate Italian scribe, it probably was intended for the courts of the Counts of Foix, Gaston Fébus, and his son Mathieu, or for the fabulously wealthy court of the schismatic Popes Clement VII and Benedict XIII in Avignon. For Solage to feature so prominently in the music of these courts, he would have to move in very high circles indeed.
Further morsels of tantalizing suggestions may be found in Solage's 10 or 12 pieces of music themselves. All bear traces of the late fourteenth century French high and cultured style of the ars subtilior. Two of them indicate Solage probably lived in Paris in the 1370s: his chanson Plusieurs gens voy makes fun of Parisian fashions (and of a particular lady named "Jacquete"), while his wildly chromatic Rondeau Fumeux fume alludes to a fashionable Parisian society of intellectuals including poet Eustache Deschamps. But by around 1380, Solage seems to have left Paris to serve Duke Jean de Berry (also known for his patronage of the Tres Riches Heures). Two of his 10 chansons were most likely composed for the wedding of Duke Jean's son to Catherine (the sister of the King of France); a third, his S'aincy estoit, praises the Duke in person. A further chanson mentions the god Phoebus, perhaps a reference to Gaston Fébus, who arranged a marriage for the Duke of Berry. Solage apparently maintained his close ties with the French royal family, as well. Joieux de cuer contains textual allusions to Louis, the Duke of Orléans, and his wife, the daughter of Giangalleazo Visconti of Milan. Read less