Guillaume de Machaut was a very interesting figure. He was born around 1300 and lived to be quite old, especially considering that life expectancies were much shorter then than now. And even though there were no sound recordings at the time, there was written music for those who could afford to study music. In his old age Machaut was saught out by a groopie of sorts. A young woman came to admire him when she learned some of his music. The two met in person and actually had a relationship for a while.
Enough gossip, though. Guillaume de Machaut wrote some of the finest medieval music I've ever heard. Indeed, he wrote some of the finest music I've ever heard, period.
This album is so beautiful; it takes you to a place that one might mistake for heaven. You will think that you are listening to angels singing in French when you hear it. The entire album is _a capella_; that is to say that the only instruments you will hear are human voices. Some of the tracks such as "Foy Porter," and "Tuit Mi Penser" are monophonic; that is to say that only one voice is present, sometimes male, sometimes female. These monophonic songs are extrememly pretty; they have very pleasing and interesting melodies and rhythms -- just as sophisticated as anything one might hear in later periods, but different in style both compositionally and in terms of performance. The singing on this album is world-class. The singing style and technique is very interesting and pleasing to the ear. The range of pitches is pretty wide, yet even the higher registers are smooth and natural, not overwhelming or grating like some opera sopranos can be at times.
The best material on the album, though, is polyphonic; that is music with several voices which create harmonies and counterpoint. There are four- and five-part harmonies that are out of this world, mixing male and female voices in a manner one might describe as an otherworldly, Francophonic, medieval barber shop quartet/quintet. If the Beach Boys had grown up in 14th-century France, they would have been performing music like this. "Dame, Je Sui Cilz/Fins Cuers Doulz," and "Dame, Mon Cuer En Vous Remaint" are two such songs, and my personal favorite is "Dame, DE Qui Toute Ma Joie Vient." The counterpoint and counterrhythms are as sophisticated and impressive as the harmonies. It's really quite stunning, ethereal, beautiful music. If you like early music, you will love this. If you are not yet familiar with much early music, this album would be a wonderful introduction.