Pes (Lat.: ‘foot’, ‘fundament’, ‘ground’)(i)
- Ernest H. Sanders
(Lat.: ‘foot’, ‘fundament’, ‘ground’)
In some English sources of polyphony dating from the second half of the 13th century (mostly the so-called Worcester Fragments, now in the Bodleian Library and Worcester Cathedral: see Worcester polyphony ) pes is the usual designation for the untexted non-Gregorian tenor of certain motets; it was freely invented or, more rarely, borrowed from a song or a dance-tune. The term generally denotes a strict or varied melodic ostinato, in contrast to the purely rhythmic ostinatos into which continental motet composers fashioned their cantus firmi. While the cantus firmus motets written in England follow continental precepts, the pes motets are an English speciality.
At first pes seems to have designated the supporting voice of motets whose upper two voices engage in voice-exchange (the commonly accepted term for a 13th-century technique that more precisely would be called phrase-exchange). In such motets the phrase elements of the pes are fairly short (ex.1), typically producing the polyphonic design:...