Contrafactum (from medieval Lat. contrafacere: ‘to imitate’, ‘counterfeit’, ‘forge’)
- Robert Falck
- and Martin Picker
In vocal music, the substitution of one text for another without substantial change to the music.
The term is most commonly applied to the practice of composing new poems to older melodies, particularly in the secular monophonic repertory of the 12th and 13th centuries. But it is found equally in the plainchant repertory, where the texts of new feasts, for example, were routinely adapted to older melodies. Many sequence and hymn melodies too were retexted numerous times. Contrafacta are also found in medieval polyphony. A number of 13th-century motets, for example, survive with both Latin and French texts; thus Philip the Chancellor’s ...