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(mōtĕt`), name for the outstanding type of musical composition of the 13th cent. and for a different type that originated in the Renaissance. The 13th-century motet, a creation (c.1200) of the school of Notre-Dame de Paris, was a polyphonic composition based on a tenortenor,
highest natural male voice. In medieval polyphony, tenor was the name given to the voice that had the cantus firmus, a preexisting melody, often a fragment of plainsong, to which other voices in counterpoint were added.
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 that was a fragment of plainsong (or, later, of any type of melody, sacred or secular) arranged in a brief, reiterated rhythmic pattern called an ordo. It existed side by side but was distinct from the conductus, an earlier development of choral composition, which was not based on preexisting liturgical chants and which employed several voice parts in a type of harmony. The motet's original text, sometimes only a word or two, was kept, but the tenor may have been played on instruments. The second part, called motetus [Fr. mot=word], had its own text, usually sacred and in Latin but by the second half of the century sometimes secular and in French. The third voice, the triplum, had still another text, and very often the motet combined a triplum that was a French love song and a motetus that was a Latin hymn to the Virgin Mary. The outgrowth of this early motet was the isorhythmic motet of the late 13th and the 14th cent. It employed a recurring rhythmic pattern called a talea, longer than an ordo and not restricted to the tenor part. Of the 23 extant motets of Guillaume de MachautMachaut, Guillaume de
, c.1300–1377, French poet and composer. Variants of his name include Machault, de Machaudio, and de Mascaudio. He studied theology and took holy orders. In the service of King John of Bohemia he traveled through Europe on chivalric expeditions.
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 (c.1300–c.1377), an outstanding 14th-century composer, 20 are isorhythmic. Isorhythmic technique was not confined to the motet and persisted into the mid-15th cent. The Renaissance motet had but one text, in Latin, and was a polyphonic, unaccompanied composition. It had usually from four to six voices and was free from the 13th-century rhythmic rigidity. Cultivated by composers of the Flemish school, it had spread throughout Europe by the middle of the 15th cent. Outstanding composers are Josquin Desprez and Orlando di Lasso of the Flemish school; the Italians Andrea Gabrieli, Giovanni Gabrieli, and Palestrina; the Spaniard Tomás Luis de Victoria; and the Englishmen Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. In the baroque era the greatest motets were written in Germany to German texts. The Symphoniae Sacrae of Heinrich Schütz include many motets in various styles, with the addition of solo voices and instrumental accompaniment. The peak is reached in the six motets of Bach, which are thought to have had some continuo accompaniment. Since Bach's time the term motet has been applied to almost any kind of sacred choral polyphony but usually refers to unaccompanied Latin motets for use in Roman Catholic services. Many anthems in English, however, have been designated motets by their composers.


See F. Matthiassen, The Style of the Early Motet (1966).



a genre of polyphonic vocal music that originated in 12th-century France. Originally, the motet was a musical composition for two voices, consisting of a new voice added to a voice based on refrains in the Catholic service (Gregorian chants). The new voice was called the motet. Subsequently, the term was applied to the entire composition. Later, motets were written for three or four voices.

The voices that were added to the main voice were melodically richer. Their texts—originally variations on the text for the main voice—became more and more independent. Some motets combined religious texts and humorous secular texts, nonsense texts, and texts in different languages. The main voice was often as signed to an instrumentalist. Later, the fugue and counterpoint were used in motets.

From the 15th century any vocal composition more developed and more ceremonial than a song was called a motet. A purely vocal (noninstrumental) style of choral polyphony was developed in the motets of O. Lassus, G. Gabrieli, and Palestrina in the 16th century. Choral settings prevail in the 16th-century French motet. A solo motet with a figured bass originated in 17th-century Italy. The motet reached its peak in the works of J. S. Bach, who made the choral motet a more profound musical form similar to the cantata.

In the 19th century the motet was developed as a choral composition based on a serious text and sometimes including religious motifs. Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Bruckner, M. Reger, and Gounod were among the 19th-century composers who favored the form.


Leichtentritt, H. Geschichte der Motette, 2nd ed. Hildesheim, 1966.


a polyphonic choral composition used as an anthem in the Roman Catholic service
References in periodicals archive ?
Schmidt proceeds to order the manuscript's motets according to chronological and stylistic subtypes that correspond to the codicological units identified in his earlier chapter.
The second motet, "O Magnum Mysterium" by Spanish composer Tomas Luis di Victoria, is a more complicated piece in both its structure and how imitation is used.
Broadly speaking, Zayaruznaya's The Monstrous New Art is about text-music relations in the ars nova motet with a focus on the period spanning 1315 to 1370.
Motets was recorded at All Hallows Church Hampstead, Motets was recorded at All Hallows Church Hampstead, London, in January and the wonderful choir was PolyphoLondon, in January and the wonderful choir was PolyphoPolyphony, conducted by Stephen Layton.
1520-?), who is represented by two motets in the manuscript: Dominus meus (ff.
The king had many of the grand motets printed by the royal publisher Ballard to disseminate the music to the regions outside Paris and internationally.
Adducing evidence from sources such as the manuscript illuminations of the Vita of St Denis, and literary works by Guillot de Paris, Jean de Jandun, and John of Garland, Dillon proceeds to a close reading of a trouvere chanson de recontre and two motets from the Montpellier Codex H.196.
Often quite ruminative, and displaying no overt glitz - although there are no shortcomings in this player's technique - these understated and somewhat contemplative readings provided a wonderful complement to the motets. Skidmore's cantabile suggested a soulful humanity in the slow movements, even a sense of questing improvisation, while in the Courantes and Gigues his nimble fingering and bowing displayed a quietly exhilarating lightness of touch that remained firmly within the boundaries of Baroque style and conventions.
The Newcastle Bach Choir are at Belsay Hall, near Morpeth, to sing Stanford's Three Motets, Op.38; Elgar's As torrents in summer and My love dwelt in a northern land; Bach's Jesu, joy of man's desiring; two choruses from Handel's Messiah and Percy Lovell's arrangement of Four North Country Songs.
Lute music in tablature was printed throughout the sixteenth century, but Galilei was the first to propose a method of converting vocal music to a form playable on the lute; for all the dances and fantasias that sixteenth-century lutenists published, it was still the intabulation of vocal music--madrigals, chansons, motets, and even masses--that forms the bulk of the repertory.
Fifty works have been chosen, representing such forms as chant, organum, masses, motets, chanson, canzonas, lute pieces, ricercari and keyboard works from an anonymous early-seventeenth-century canzona to a fugue from Bach's Die Kunst der Fuge.
He then turns to the sophisticated tradition of motets based on the Savonarolan laudae in the Catholic--and Protestant--courts of Italy, France and England.