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Tylman Susato

Tylman Susato

Born: c. 1510–1515. Soest (near Dortmund), Germany
Died: 1570 or after. Sweden

- Biography
- Musical Examples
- Works

- Composer Index

Dutch printer, musician, and composer of German birth. Important for his many collections of vocal and instrumental music.

The rise of music printing was one of the most important developments in the history of Western music. For the first time, people of modest means had access to a wide variety of music. And like the record executives of today, the Renaissance printer reflected, and at the same time helped to shape, the musical tastes of the time. By the time that Tylman Susato began publishing, the process of single impression printing had been perfected. This allowed the printer of music, just like the printer of text, to compose each page by using pre-made movable type pieces. While the result was not very elegant (especially compared to music printed using the older and more expensive multiple impression process), it was affordable and made it easy to produce the books in large quantities.

Our knowledge of Susato's life begins, appropriately enough, with a notice of his employment as a calligrapher for the Confraternity of Our Lady in Antwerp. The accuracy and attention to detail that such a job demanded would serve him well in his work as a printer. At about the same time, we find records of the start of his musical career as a town musician in Antwerp. As was usual in such cases, he was proficient on a number of instruments, including trumpet, sackbut (an early form of the trombone), and recorder. In the early 1540s, he went into business with two local printers and within two years had taken over the firm. The contents of his publications were less cosmopolitan than those of his Italian contemporaries, and he focused on the music of composers from the Low Countries.

Susato's own music is typical of his time—a mix of sacred and secular works that would appeal to a broad audience. He is best known, however, for the instrumental pieces published in his collection Danserye. The collection is made up of simple four-part arrangements of well-known tunes—the kind a town bandsman might be expected to know. The collection was undoubtedly aimed toward amateur instrumentalists, and it often fills the same role today as a staple of amateur early music groups around the world.

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Musical Examples:

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Three Dances
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  • Printed more than 50 collections of music, including Masses, motets, chansons, dances, Dutch popular songs, and souterliedekens (Dutch settings of the Psalms)
  • Composed Masses, chansons, Dutch songs and Psalm settings, and dances
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