A South Netherlandish composer, Pipelare was born c.1450 and died c.1515. He was active in Antwerp but left there to become Master of the Choristers for the Confraternity of Our Lady at 's-Hertogenbosch, remaining there from the spring of 1498 until about 1 May 1500. His name indicates that either he or a forebear played woodwind instruments, perhaps as a town piper. In the words of Ornithoparchus, as translated by John Dowland in 1609, Pipelare was one of several composers whose works ‘flow from the very fountaine of Art’.
Pipelare wrote in almost all the forms of his day, and his style is characterized by its wide diversity, ranging from a dense polyphony, as in the first section of the St John Credo, to a homophonic style, as in Vray dieu d'amours. He approached the style of Pierre de La Rue in the sombre melancholy of some of his works, such as parts of the Missa ‘Mi mi’, but such other compositions as the chanson Morkin ic hebbe are gay and light. Two characteristics of his style are the frequent use of syncopation and sequence.
The Missa ‘Floruit egregius infans Livinus’ is in an early style. The cantus firmus, which migrates freely from voice to voice, employs altogether 20 chants for St Livinus. All movements except the Kyrie conclude with the same musical section in triple metre to produce a final ‘refrain’ reminiscent of Faugues. The third Agnus Dei of the second Missa sine nomine is noteworthy for an altus part consisting only of the note A, which is symbolically notated. The Missa ‘L'homme armé’ contains some of his most exciting writing, building up to the grandiose final Agnus Dei. The Missa ‘Dicit Dominus’ is a study in the complexity of rhythmic structure: the cantus firmus appears in various mensurations conflicting with those of the other parts.
The Missa ‘Fors seulement’, with its rich sonorities, is primarily a cantus firmus mass with the famous melody from Pipelare’s own chanson (second setting) rhythmically differentiated from the other parts. On the other hand, all the parts of the first Missa sine nomine are so permeated with the pre-existing material that it can be called an example of ‘saturation’ technique. Sequence and unpretentious singable lines characterize the Missa ‘Johannes Christe care’/‘Ecce puer meus’; the texture of this mass is a 3 since the cantus firmus is absent much of the time. This work and the St John Credo were probably written in 1498 or 1499. Pipelare was a master of large complex structures, but that he did not need complicated organization to bring out his finest writing is nowhere more obvious than in his Missa de feria, which though simple in style contains some of his most memorable music.
Pipelare's motets show the same diversity of style as his masses. The Salve regina and Ave Maria … virgo serena display an early style in their use of short notes in syncopated rhythms. There is a more careful declamation of the text in Memorare mater Christi (closely modelled on Josquin's Stabat mater) and the Magnificat, in which the composer allowed the voices to move within carefully considered vertical sonorities. Here, especially in the Magnificat, he looked to the future, not only in his careful treatment of dissonance but also in his sense of balance both among the voice parts and in the phrase structures.
Among his Flemish chansons, Een vrolic wesen seems intended as a solo with instrumental accompaniment, as was an earlier setting by Barbireau. Of the three or possibly four French chansons, there are two settings of Fors seulement, one version based on Ockeghem's famous chanson and a second on a new tenor melody. The second version was extremely popular, to judge both by the many manuscripts and prints that contain it and by the many compositions that in turn were based on it.