The Evolution of the Motet Essay

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The Evolution of the Motet

The Evolution of the Motet
Throughout the history of music, there have been few styles that not only have opened doors to masterwork compositions in their own genres, but have also led the way to other musical techniques over the musical eras and one of these magical music styles is the motet. The motet can easily be confused with other musical structures but what separates the motet from other types of group-performance based styles of music is "a piece of music in several parts with words."1 This is the closest definition of motet as can be said without overgeneralization and will operate from the beginning of the 13th century well into the late 16th century and beyond. Some scholars
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“Medieval motets tended to be isorhythmic; that is, they employed repeated rhythmic patterns in all voices—not only the cantus firmus—which did not necessarily coincide with repeating melodic patterns.”2 This new isorhythmic principle, brought on mostly by the composer Machaut, was used not only in the tenor voice but also rather with much more freedom in the upper voice parts. The application of discant over a cantus firmus marked the beginnings of this new revolutionary style, the motet, in Western music. The key motet composers in the medieval period were few in number; Phillip de Vitry and Machaut were one of the earliest composers to institute the isorhythmic technique, which set the style for other medieval composers like Willelmus de Winchecumbe. Guillaume de Machaut was a more famous named late-medieval composer to institute the discant which caught on in other music styles and only helped to evolve the motet into its later stylings. These composers helped carry the motet to the new Flemish motet style.
The Flemish style of motets marked the peak of the motet, in my opinion. The Flemish motet was more polished and refined while in contrast, the medieval motet was a diamond in the rough.
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