Talea (Lat.: ‘a cutting’)
- Ernest H. Sanders
(Lat.: ‘a cutting’)
A medieval term usually understood to denote a freely invented rhythmic configuration, several statements of which constitute the note values of the tenor of an isorhythmic motet (or of its first section, if diminution is later applied to the tenor).
While medieval writers were far from unanimous in their use of ‘talea’ and ‘color’, modern musicology has been influenced by the definitions that Johannes de Muris, the first to mention talea (c1340), ascribed to ‘some musicians’: ‘A configuration of pitches and its repetitions are called “color”; a rhythmic configuration and its repetitions are called “talea”’ (CoussemakerS, iii, 58b; cf also 99a). Even more precise are the statements of the anonymous author (late 14th century) of an Ars cantus mensurabilis (Anonymus 5 of CoussemakerS, iii, 397b): ‘When the same note shapes [i.e. rhythms] are repeated, but with different pitches, this is called “talla” … When the same pitches are repeated, but with different note shapes, that is “color”’....