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13th And 14th Century Motets Essay Sample

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13th And 14th Century Motets Essay Sample

The motet is hardly a term that can be defined in brief. It is a word that requires a descriptive analysis for each time period. Throughout its history, the motet has taken on several different forms and ideas. A significant difference in the definition of the motet can be seen between the 13th and 14th centuries. It is appropriate to begin in the 13th century, when the motet was originated. Originally, the motet was seen as a decoration of chant, for it was based on the sacred Latin texts of the Gregorian chant.

In the early motet the tenor, or bottom voice, sang original Gregorian chant. In terms of form, it originated as a troped clausula. This changed in the 14th century when the idea of the motet was more secular, the tenor did not sing chant. The text was usually French and portrayed ideas of courtly love and satire. Often times the text and music was often symbolic. At times the motet during the 14th century was written to recognize special events, feasts or occasions. In the 13th century, the motet usually consisted of 3 to 4 voices.

Most often, each of these voices would sing their own text, with the tenor singing the chant as previously mentioned. Usually the top voice or the triplum had the longest text and the smallest note values. The middle voice, or duplum, had less text and slightly longer note values. The tenor sang the sacred text and the longest note values. This concept becomes known as the Franconian motet. This idea would continue for the 14th century motets. Although the idea of the Franconian motet continued, the way artists understood rhythm would differ.

During the 13th century rhythmic modes were used to distinguish certain rhythmic patterns. For the duration of this time, there was no standard notation of rhythm on the score. This changed during the 14th century when the use of mensurations began, indicating the relationship between the breve and semibreve. They can be compared to our idea of time signatures. During this time, composers also began the use of isorhythms, or rhythmic patterns because of the new idea ars nova, allowing composers to use almost any rhythmic pattern.

These helped standardize the way of notating music rhythmically. Another rhythmic difference, although slight, can be identified between the two motets. Because the 13th century motet was mostly associated with the liturgy and was considered sacred, it was written in what was considered perfect time, or in a pulse of three. In the 14th century we have composers straying from this idea slightly, but not until the late 14th century. Voicing was an essential part of the motet.

In the 13th century the motet was usually written for 2-4 voices and consisted of a very narrow range, providing for significant amounts of voice crossing. This could have also have been contributed to the fact that the voice parts were written successively with not as much importance to how the voice parts fit within each other. During the 14th century we find that the voice parts have a slightly larger range and form more consonant intervals amongst each other. The 14th century motet was also most often written for 4 voice parts.

Another difference between the two centuries is also the role of the motet. During the 14th century, the motet served a vehicle for composers to display their talents and skill. Unlike the 14th century, the mass was a main form of composition for most composers of the 13th century. The motet is a very tricky term to define and it is hard to analyze its meaning during the medieval times. It varied in style and form between the two centuries and centuries to continue.

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