Josquin Des Pres, Or Depres (Jodocus Pra-Tensis), a French composer, born in Hainaut, Belgium, about 1450, died at Conde, France, Aug. 27, 1531. Though known to musicians as Josquin, this was only his Christian name, it being the contraction of the Flemish Josse-kin, or little Joseph. He was rightly styled the father of modern harmony, and was esteemed in his own day as the greatest composer of his time. Preceding as he did by nearly a century Palestrina, Cipriano, and Orlando di Lasso, he nevertheless anticipated most of their methods and forms of composition. So great was his knowledge of counterpoint and fertility of invention, that every subtlety of the art seemed known to him. His first master was Jean Ockeghem, one of the chaplains of Charles VII., with whom he studied at Paris for several years. He then went to Italy, and entered the pontifical choir of Sixtus IV. at Rome. Here he studied with diligence and gave the first proofs of his great genius as a composer. Returning to France, he was made the chief singer in the chapel of Louis XII., a position corresponding to that of chapelmaster subsequently created. He added to his duties as musician those of an ecclesiastic.
The king had promised Josquin a benefice, but it was long before the promise was redeemed, the composer being constantly put off with the words Laissez moi faire. At last Josquin composed a mass on the notes La sol fa re mi (Laissez faire moi). This not being effectual as a reminder, he composed music to a part of the 119th psalm (Memor esto verbi tui servo tuo), " Remember thy word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope." This also failing to produce the desired effect, Josquin composed a motet on the words, " I have no inheritance in the land of the living." Upon this the benefice was granted, and the composer expressed his gratitude in a setting of the psalm, "O Lord, thou hast dealt graciously with thy servant." These compositions were all of great merit. The works of Josquin were numerous, consisting of masses, motets, and other compositions of a religious character. Many of them are preserved among the manuscripts of the British museum.