The second half of the fifteenth century saw profound changes in the understanding and valuation of the concepts of "composer" and "composition." This article explores those changes, especially as they evolved in urban musical culture in the Low Countries in 1450-1500. Attention is given to oral traditions of popular and professional polyphony, the status of writing in musical instruction and practice, the emergence of a perceived opposition between "composition" and "improvisation," the technical and conceptual ramifications of that perception, the relative social and professional status implied in designations such as "singer," "composer," "musicus," and "tenorist," and, finally, the new understanding and valuation of musical authorship, around 1500, involving notions of personal style, artistic freedom, authorial intention, creative property, historical awareness, and professional organization, protection, and secrecy.

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