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date: 26 January 2020

Western Windlocked

  • Hugh Benham


The name of three early Tudor four-voice masses, one each by Taverner, Tye and Sheppard. All are built on a cantus firmus that somewhat resembles a melody with words beginning ‘Westron wynde’ found in GB-Lbl Roy. App.58, f.5 (see ex.1). The melody may be a single voice-part from a courtly polyphonic song, or a popular tune that was sung as it stands: the words certainly seem popular in character. Ex.2, from Taverner's mass, shows the melody used in the Western Wind masses. This may have been re-cast from the tune shown in ex.1 to make it more suitable for use as a cantus firmus; it seems not to be a polyphonic voice that could accompany the melody in ex.1.

Taverner, Tye and Sheppard all repeat the cantus firmus throughout their masses, making small rhythmic changes to accommodate new sets of words, and introducing differences of melodic detail at cadences. All three composers sometimes omit the third phrase of the cantus firmus. Whereas Taverner’s mass often has the melody in the treble, but sometimes in tenor or bass, Tye’s restricts it to the mean (beginning on D), and Sheppard’s nearly always has it in the treble. Various two- and three-part scorings are exploited in addition to four-part writing....

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Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association
London, British Library
Journal of the American Musicological Society
Musical Quarterly
Marienberg, Kirchenbibliothek