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date: 23 October 2019


  • Ernest H. Sanders,
  • Leeman L. Perkins,
  • Patrick Macey,
  • Christoph Wolff,
  • Jerome Roche,
  • Graham Dixon,
  • James R. Anthony
  •  and Malcolm Boyd
  • , revised by Peter M. Lefferts


One of the most important forms of polyphonic music from about 1220 to 1750. No single set of characteristics serves to define it generally, except in particular historical or regional contexts. It originated as a liturgical trope but soon developed into the pre-eminent form of secular art music during the late Middle Ages. The medieval motet was a polyphonic composition in which the fundamental voice (tenor) was usually arranged in a pattern of reiterated rhythmic configurations, while the upper voice or voices (up to three), nearly always with different Latin or French texts, generally moved at a faster rate. In the first half of the 15th century the motet's liturgical ties were restored, and it continued to evolve by adapting a number of forms and styles borrowed in part from the chanson, tenor mass and, later, the madrigal. In the 16th century the motet achieved its classical synthesis in the context of the Franco-Flemish style of Josquin and his successors. Important vernacular subspecies developed later, particularly in England (...

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