A polyphonic composition for unaccompanied choir setting a Latin sacred, often Biblical text. This is the most common connotation, but motets may have instruments, solo voices, and texts in other languages in certain historical contexts.
   Motets originated in France in the early 13th century when the upper voices of discant clausulae were given texts that troped the original liturgical text. Or, such pieces were simply composed with new texts, sometimes in French; the sources do not indicate a clear chronology. In any case, the 13th-century motet consisted of a repeating traditional chant melody called the tenor, whose sometimes isorhythmic duration pattern was determined by the composer, a newly composed counterpoint with a new text, called the motetus, and often another new melody with yet a different text, called the {}triplum. With the resources of the new rhythmic notation of the Ars Nova in the 14th century, the independence of melodies and texts became so extreme as to seem at times hardly belonging to the same composition. This type persisted until the early 15th century, having spread to Italy and England.
   The 15th century witnessed a number of fundamental changes that produced the archetype of the common understanding of motet. First, perhaps as a delayed response to a decree issued by Pope John XXII from Avignon in 1324 against elaborate polyphony or perhaps as a response to English polyphony heard during the Hundred Years War, the texture became much simpler and developed a more strictly consonant harmonic syntax based on triadic sonorities. Second, the number of voices in a conventional motet texture became four, with the chant melody, now known as the cantus firmus, generally found in the third voice. Four-voiced texture balanced the needs of free melody with the requirements of a triadic harmony, and the new contratenor or bass voice provided acoustical support for the triads. Third, the four voices all sang a single text, although seldom homorhythmically; the mixed texts and languages of the 14th century disappeared.
   Fourth, in the last quarter of the century the imitation of Josquin Desprez provided an alternative structure to the cantus firmus, which at one stroke allowed all the other voices access to the chant used in the motet and thereby unified the entire texture. Alternatively, it made possible the composition of imitative motets without reference to any preexisting melody. The combination of the two techniques could create truly monumental works such as Josquin’s Miserere Mei, Deus.
   Sixteenth-century motets represent the epitome of what is variously called "classical polyphony," "high Renaissance polyphony," and the "stile antico." Josquin and his colleagues Jacob Obrecht, Jean Mouton and others had developed both the musical language and the formal procedures based on imitation in paired voices that their successors built upon and elaborated. Adrian Willaert and Nicolas Gombert composed with imitation less formulaic, and the great generation of Giovanni da Palestrina, Orlandus Lassus, William Byrd, and Tomas Luis de Victoria, each in his own way, dominated the second half of the century in both number and quality of motets. By this time, four-voiced texture was considered somewhat antiquated. In England, the Eton Choirbook preserves works for up to 10 voices in non-imitative texture. On the continent five and six voices in contrasting imitative and homorhythmic textures were preferred, and experiments with cori spezzati, or split-choir texture, began in the 1520s.
   The liturgical function of the motet is quite vague from the beginnings. The logical supposition for motets setting texts from the divine office is that they would substitute for traditional chants in those liturgies, and this would explain the large number of Marian antiphon motets, which could always be sung at compline. Sixteenthcentury diaries from the Sistine Chapel, however, show that motets were sung at the Offertory, Elevation, the distribution of communion, or the conclusion of a mass, regardless of its text. Motets could be heard in the private chapels of the nobility, as private devotions, and might also be a form of spiritual entertainment. One of the best known music prints of the 16th century, Willaert’s Musica Nova (Venice, 1559), is a collection of motets and secular Italian madrigals. The invention of opera in 1597 made permanent the fissure between sacred and secular musical languages that had been deepening throughout the 16th century and split motet composition into two paths. Composers, particularly those working near Rome, could follow the legendary Palestrina and uphold the fixed ideals of the stile {}antico and the a cappella sound, or they could write "motets" with the new operatic textures. Contemporary terminology becomes confused and imprecise at this juncture; "motet" in the 17th century might refer to any vocal composition associated with liturgy, while the settings of sacred texts in operatic manner might be called "concerted motets," "sacred concertos," or "sacred symphonies." In these works, beginning with Ludovico Viadana’s Cento Concerti Ecclesiastici ("One Hundred Church Concertos") in 1602, and followed by many publications of Claudio Monteverdi, Alessandro Grandi, Heinrich Schü tz, and others, solo voices and instruments combine to make a complete harmonic texture. The ensemble might be as simple as one singer and continuo, or as elaborate as double or triple choir with a large instrumental group. Late 17th-century motets, such as those of Alessandro Scarlatti, become like spiritual operas in their use of recitative and da capo aria. In general, semantic referents such as traditional chant melodies are abandoned, although German Lutheran composers wrote chorale motets using their own traditional melodies as cantus fermi. Some Baroque motets, such as those of Antonio Lotti and Schütz (Cantiones Sacrae, 1625 and {}Geistliche Chormusik, 1648) combine traditional stile antico textures with secular harmonic effects. This strain culminates in the six motets of Johann Sebastian Bach.
   French composers did not adapt operatic techniques until the approximately 100 motets of Guillaume Bouzignac in the 1630s. Thereafter they readily assumed secular elements, culminating late in the century in the grand motet at the court of Versailles and the {}petit motet composed for less ostentatious circumstances such as convents. These genres continued to follow the secular trends until the French Revolution.
   As secular musical languages seemed less and less appropriate for liturgy and the gap between them and the stile antico grew enormous, composers naturally lost interest in motet composition, the only exceptions being those mostly French composers who were inspired by the Cecilian Movement, such as Charles Gounod, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Gabriel Fauré, or others such as Anton Bruckner and Franz Liszt who had a particular devotion to church music and who could employ modal harmonies and other sacred sounds while maintaining some originality. The encyclical Tra le sollecitudini of Pope Pius X (1903) exalted the "Classical Polyphony" of Palestrina but discouraged motet composition in contemporary idioms. Motets of the last 250 years are rarely heard in liturgy but some, such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, have become favorites of choral societies.

Historical dictionary of sacred music. . 2006.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • motet — motet …   Dictionnaire des rimes

  • MOTET — Le motet est une forme musicale dont les origines remontent aux XIIe et XIIIe siècles. Généralement appliqué à la musique sacrée, bien que s’inspirant aussi de chants profanes, ce terme a recouvert, au cours des siècles, des réalités différentes …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Motet — • A short piece of music set to Latin words, and sung instead of, or immediately after, the Offertorium, or as a detached number in extra liturgical functions Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Motet     Motet …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • motet — MOTÉT, motete, s.n. Compoziţie muzicală polifonică, în care fiecare voce îşi are melodia sa, uneori şi text propriu. – Din fr. motet. Trimis de ana zecheru, 02.06.2004. Sursa: DEX 98  motét s. n., pl. motéte Trimis de siveco, 10.08.2004. Sursa:… …   Dicționar Român

  • motet — Motet. s. m. Paroles de devotion qui sont mises en Musique pour estre. chantées à l Eglise, & qui ne font point partie de l Office divin. Faire un Motet, un beau Motet. composer un Motet. chanter un Motet …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • motet — (n.) choral composition on a sacred text, late 14c., from O.Fr. motet (13c.), dim. of mot word (see MOT (Cf. mot)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • motet — mòtēt m <G motéta> DEFINICIJA 1. glazb. pov. višeglasna vokalna kompozicija, razvija se od 13. do 18. st. 2. knjiž. kratki francuski pjesnički oblik s rimovanim stihovima (obično jedanaestercima i sedmercima) u epigramnome tonu ETIMOLOGIJA… …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • Motet — Mo*tet , n. [F., a dim. of mot word; cf. It. mottetto, dim. of motto word, device. See {Mot}, {Motto}.] (Mus.) A composition adapted to sacred words in the elaborate polyphonic church style; an anthem. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • mòtēt — m 〈G motéta〉 1. {{001f}}glazb. pov. višeglasna vokalna kompozicija, razvija se od 13. do 18. st. 2. {{001f}}knjiž. kratki francuski pjesnički oblik s rimovanim stihovima (obično jedanaestercima i sedmercima) u epigramnome tonu ✧ {{001f}}tal. ← fr …   Veliki rječnik hrvatskoga jezika

  • motet — фр. [мотэ/], англ. [моутэ/т] Motette нем. [мотэ/тэ] motetto ит. [мотэ/то] motetus лат. [мотэ/тус] мотет …   Словарь иностранных музыкальных терминов

  • motet — ► NOUN ▪ a short piece of sacred choral music. ORIGIN Old French, little word …   English terms dictionary

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