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motet


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A form of short unaccompanied choral comp. which eventually superseded conductus, although both were in use from 13th to early 16th cents. In 13th, 14th, and 15th cents. the motet was exclusively sacred and was based on a pre‐existing melody and set of words to which other melodies and words were added in counterpoint. Machaut, Desprès, Ockeghem, and others were masters of the motet. Du Fay introduced secular melodies as the cantus firmus of the motet. By the 16th cent., the motet reached its apogee as a sacred comp., with the madrigal as its secular counterpart. Palestrina wrote about 180 motets. Victoria, Morales, Tallis, Byrd, Bull, and Taverner were great composers of motets, sometimes called Cantiones Sacrae. J. S. Bach wrote motets (incl. Singet dem Herren), 4 of them for 8 vv. Soon the term came to be loosely applied by composers, sometimes to works with acc. and even to works for solo v. and acc. In some cases, e.g. Parry's Songs of Farewell, the words are not ecclesiastical. Generally today the term signifies a church choral comp., with Lat. words not fixed in the Liturgy. In 1951–2 Bernard Naylor wrote 9 motets to Eng. texts as a cycle for the 9 major church festivals.

Subjects: Music — Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500).


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