Ddevelopment Of Motet

Word Count: 2812 |

Essay Plan

A) Discuss the Development of the Motet by making explicit use of the works analysed during this course

In this essay I will be discussing how the musical form of the ‘Motet’ developed from the early music of the church, to become a secular music style. I will first touch on musical styles which came before, and also the composers, and their influences.

Origins: The Plainchant
Although orignating in Jewish and Pagan church centres, (Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome and Constantine), by the 4th Century, two distinct families of liturgies and music had been developed- ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western (Latin)’.
Plainchant, refers in particular to the Western family of holy rites, and would have been one of the original forms of song/rite used in early Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches.
There were several different styles of Latin Plainchant which existed alongside each other, till the mid 8th Century(Ambrosian, Gallican, Mozarabic, Gregorian, and Old Roman)

However, around this period, due political and liturgical unification of the Christian Church, one particular style of chant, came to be used as standard by the church, for use in the Roman Liturgy, the ‘Gregorian’ Chant (example figure 1 below)

(Figure 1)

Originally the Gregorian chant was probably so named to honor the contemporary Pope Gregory II but later lore attributed the authorship of chant to his more famous predecessor Gregory the Great. Gregory was portrayed dictating plainchant inspired by a dove representing the Holy Spirit, giving Gregorian chant the stamp of holy authority. Gregory’s authorship is popularly accepted as fact to this day.
There are any number of stories and legends associated with Gregory. There are paintings showing a bird singing chants into his ear as he wrote them down and there are stories of his sending out missionaries with instructions to bring back any new music they encountered, saying “Why should the Devil have all the good songs?”

Figure 2
(Figure2) Gregory I – Antiphonary of Hartker of Sankt Gallen

According to contributor John Howell of website http://www.medieval.org Whether Gregory actually did any of these things is questionable. He believes that hey were attributed to him in later centuries in an attempt to build up and support the primacy of the papacy. Those who attributed these accomplishments to Gregory, were doing the same job that spin doctors do today for politicians and entertainers.

The Gregorain chant was favoured over other chants, not because Gregory himself invented it or because he banned all other previous chant styles, but because he was the greatest promoter of the standardized style. This style of chant was named in his honour for the endeavour he undertook to promote its use in the Roman Liturgy
Other chants still co existed up until this time in the Catholic Church, albeit to an ever lesseing extent, and eventually their use died out, and Gregorian Chant came to be almost exclusively used.
Only Gregorian, Ambrosian, and Old Roman chants now survive in their complete, original form.

Plainchant Notation
Music in Europe before the 9th century was not even written down at all. Although chant was probably sung since the earliest days of the church, for centuries they were only transmitted orally. The earliest Western notation for chant appears in the 9th century, and was written in a completely different style to what is now commonplace in modern music. These early staffless neumes, appeared as freeform wavy lines above the text. ( example Figure 3)

Figure 3 (image courtesy of http://www.medieval.org/)

The music was Monophonic in texture (meaning that although one melody there may have been several voices singing) with the words dictating the pitch and melody of the song.
Other characteristics of the plainchant, is that the range rarely went above one Octave, and Intervals were small, and sung in stepped form. The music was composed for male voices, and sung in Latin. In convents, women were permitted to sing the Mass and Office as a function of their consecrated life, but the choir was still considered an official liturgical duty reserved to clergy, so lay women were not allowed to sing in the Schola cantorum or other choirs.

Composers of the time, (Leonin and Perotin being the most prominent), began to experiment with altering the existing melody or text or both of some parts of the Plainchant. This practice became known as ‘Troping’
From the Greek τροπή (tropÄ“), “a turn, a change”. The Latin form of the word is tropus.
From the 9th century onwards, trope refers to additions of new music to pre-existing chants in use in the Western Christian Church.
The new verses appeared before or after the original material, or in between phrases. In the Medieval era, troping was an important for composers wishing to put their own individual stamp to their local liturgical music.
‘Duplication of the pre existing melody at the 4th or fifth Octave’
Although it has not been possible to establish a beginning date for the establishment of the Organum, sources such as Musica enchirialdis ( ref Wikipedia) indicate that the practice may have gone back hundreds of years.
Early organum
The first document to describe organum specifically, and give rules for its performance, was the Musica enchiriadis (c. 895),
Although there were very strict guidelines as to how music was performed ‘doubling’ was acceptable, as it was inevitable when men and boys sang together. The original chant would be the upper voice, vox principalis; the vox organalis was at a parallel perfect interval below, usually a fourth. Thus the melody would be heard as the principal voice, the vox organalis as an accompaniment or harmonic reinforcement. This kind of organum is called parallel organum.
The Musica enchiriadis documented a practice which had probably been in use for some time, although it doesn’t give a clue to even the approximate beginings of this practice, which may go back hundreds of years.
Free organum
After parallel organum the next development to appear was free organum. This style was where the upper voice moved while the tenor holds one note, or voices moved in opposite directions or voices moving in the same direction but to different intervals.
Melismatic organum
Melisma, in music, is the technique of changing the note (pitch) of a single syllable of text while it is being sung. Music sung in this style is referred to as melismatic, as opposed to syllabic, where each syllable of text is matched to a single note. Organum reached its peak in the twelfth century with the development of the Melismatic style of wrting, where songs had more than one note per syllable, as opposed to previous syllabic and neumatic styles.
Medieval Composers
The first known significant composer of the organum. was Léonin. He was probably French, and he probably lived and worked in Paris at the Notre Dame Cathedral, and was the earliest member of the Notre Dame school who is known by name. All that is known about him comes from the writings of a later student at the cathedral who mentions Léonin as the composer of the Magnus Liber, the “great book” of organum. Léonin’s work was greatly improved and expanded by the later composer Pérotin. who provided many new composition techniques.
Pérotin is believed to be French, and lived around the end of the twelfth and beginning of the 13th century. He was one of very few composers of his day whose work has been preserved.
He pioneered the styles of organum triplum and organum quadruplum (three and four-part lines) His compositional style was to take a well-known melody and stretch it out in time, so each syllable was hundreds of seconds long, and then use each note of the melody and then interweaving lines above it. The result was that one or more vocal parts sang free, quickly moving lines over the drone of the chant below.
Pérotin’s and Leonins works are preserved in the Magnus Liber, the “Great Book” of early polyphonic church music, which was in the collection of the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.
The Motet
The motet arose when ‘words’ (French, mots) were added to the upper voice parts. After about 1250, motets were composed expressly as separate compositions. The chief characteristics of the genre were the use of more than one text simultaneously, sometimes in different languages, and the use of a segment of Gregorian chant for the lowest voice part.

There were two essential characteristics of the motet, one was that “it was constructed on a cantus firmus, some pre-existent melody…” (Thomson, 57) The other was that it had at least two different texts. As Grout points out, “the stock of motet melodies, both tenors and upper parts, lay in the public domain; composers and performers freely helped themselves to the music of their predecessors without acknowledgment and altered it without notice.” (Grout, 99)

In the 14th Century the Composer Philippe de Vitry (1291-1361), made many reforms to the previously musical texts and notation. Born in Paris, he studied at the Sorbonne, then worked at the French court as adviser and diplomat, eventually becoming Bishop of Meaux in 1351.Vitry’s, treatise Ars Nova (c. 1325), recorded important changes that had taken place in musical notation. These particularly affected the notation of rhythm. Vitry’s surviving compositions—which probably represent only a small portion of his actual output—consist of 12 motets, almost exclusively with Latin texts. Examlpe below:
Laudable in virtue
commendable for character
lovely in appearance
undefiled in purity
desirable for preciousness
venerable in ancestry
awesome in power
with moral qualities beyond speech
wondrous in miracles.
O Mary, you are noble flesh.
It would be profitable to be of flesh
if you wished that through your graces
my wavering spirit might be restored
from wickedness to true humility
and become acceptable to God.
Shamelessly I used to wander
over all the earth bounded by the sea;
recklessly I lusted
after anything that could corrupt loving.
When I was in love, but perhaps not loved.
I would be tormented for payment;
or if I was loved, but love was not in me.
I became unpleasant.
But when I loved and was loved
(I would join) on the occasion of this “match”
with any common Venus
in surging spasms.
after which my flesh would reek for a long wile
from the darts of love.
Well, what hero wishes to be burned by love
beyond a certain point?
This is not to say that loving should be prohibited.
But what girl should be loved?
She who was worthy to carry within her
the true God and Man;
worthy, because she was virtuous
and full of grace beyond all others.
strong in her pure beauty.
sweetness, humility and holiness.
When one loves this lady, he is loved in turn.
This is then a pleasant passion.
Love is made happy by him
who loves with the kiss of love itself.
O Mary, virgin parent.
burn my soul.
so that, obedient to your love.
I may avoid false love.

Exmples of styles and Form of the motet
In modern usage, the term “isorhythm” is often associated with the practice of repeating two sets of parameters (such as duration and pitch) at different rates so that the values of one parameter are associated with different values of the other parameter at each repetition.
Philippe de Vitry has been credited with the invention of the technique, but it “was neither an invention of Philippe de Vitry nor his exclusive property in the early fourteenth century.” The isorhythmic construction was often varied through the use of strict or free rhythmic diminution in the repetition of the color. (Hoppin 1978, p.363)

Isorhythmic tenor from the first part of the Kyrie of Machaut’s Messe de Nostre Dame (c. 1360). A color of 28 notes is arranged with a four-note talea pattern which repeats seven times
Isorhythm is one way in which late medieval and early Renaissance composers structured polyphonic works, especially motets and sections of the Mass. It consists of repeated patterns, usually rhythmic but sometimes melodic.
A rhythmic pattern is called talea and a melodic pattern is called color; and these are in sync with one another in some compositions, and are overlapped in others.
In music hocket is the rhythmic linear technique using the alternation of notes, pitches, or chords. This is opposed to the alternation of phrases, or antiphony. In medieval practice of hocket, the melody in two voices moves (sometimes quickly) back-and-forth in such a manner that one voice is still while the other moves, and vice-versa.
In European music, hocket was used primarily in vocal music of the 13th and early 14th centuries. It was a predominant characteristic of music of the Notre Dame school. In the 14th century, the device was most often found in secular vocal music.

Example of hocket (In seculum d’Amiens longum), French, late 13th century. Observe the quick alternation of sung notes and rests between the upper two voices. While this example is textless, the hocket was usually done on a vowel sound. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hocket)

It is highly probable that De Vitry probably influenced composer Guillaume de Machaut in his motets. Machaut, (c. 1300 – April 1377), was an important Medieval French poet and composer. He is one of the earliest composers for whom significant biographical information is available. Guilllaume de Machaut was “the last great poet who was also a composer,” in the words of the scholar Daniel Leech-Wilkinson. Machaut’s poetry was greatly admired and imitated by other poets including the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer.
Machaut was and is the most celebrated composer of the 14th century. He composed in a wide range of styles and forms and his output was enormous. He was also the most famous and historically significant representative of the musical movement known as the ars nova.
Machaut’s other secular works fall into the category of the formes fixes, established poetic/musical structures in which part of the delight of the work is in the subtle manipulation of predictable language and form. His forme-fixe songs, mostly on courtly love themes, included all of the major genres of his day: virelai (AbbaA), rondeaux (ABaAabAB), and ballades (a a b X), where a capital letter designates a refrain text and lower case designates new text.
1. Virelai
The virelai consists of a refrain; a contrasting verse section, beginning with a couplet (two halves with open and closed endings), and continuing with a section which uses the music and the poetic form of the refrain; and finally a reiteration of the refrain. There may be up to three verse sections; Machaut usually uses three, but many of the repertory manuscripts only include 1 or 2. The virelai begins and ends with its refrain. In short,
Virelai form: A bb’ a A bb’ a A bb’ a A

2. Ballade
The ballade may be the oldest of the fixed forms, as something resembling it appears often in the troubadour repertoire. In the 14th century, and especially in the hands of Machaut, its tonal structure was clarified by the use of open and closed endings. The refrain comes at the end of each stanza, and may be set off by a dramatic rhythmic or tonal gesture. There are commonly three stanzas:
Ballade form: aa’ b C aa’ b C aa’ b C
3. Rondeau
The rondeau is at once the smallest and the most intricate of the three forms, as all the complex formal procedures take place within a single stanza. While each section within the virelai and ballade consists of several lines of poetry and music, in the rondeau a section may contain only a single line (though more are possible, especially in the later part of the century.) Since the refrain contains two parts, and only the first part is repeated internally, the poetic and musical effect may be playful, ironic, or otherwise expressive.
Rondeau form (single stanza): A B a A a b A B
Like the virelai, the rondeau begins and ends with its refrain.
Although the motet was the foundation for many future musical forms, it was never a popular genre, its complexities requiring a cultured and trained ear for appreciation. In 1300, Jean de Grouchy, a music theoretician, haughtily claimed that the motet was
” not intended for the vulgar who do not understand its finer points and derive no pleasure from hearing it: it is meant for educated people and those who look for refinement in art.”
The End of Europe’s Middle Ages / Applied History Research Group / University of Calgary
Copyright © 1998, The Applied History Research Group

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