Three Faces of Medieval English Motet


The medieval English motet belongs to the peripheral branches of the genre and is still insufficiently studied. Only since 1909, poorly preserved handwritten sources began to be discovered and motets were reconstructed from their fragments. It was only in 1957 that their publication began, revealing original approaches to the genre. In addition to the isorhythmic motets created under mainland influence, other technical solutions were discovered in the island repertoire: motets with voice exchange and motets on the cantus medius (the problems of inauthentic terminology are discussed in the article in parallel with the characteristics of these phenomena). The fundamentals of all these genre varieties are common: vocal polyphony, Latin text (mainly of spiritual content), predominant polytextuality, reliance on a borrowed primary source as a norm that allows exceptions. However, different composition techniques  (isorhythm, voice exchange, cantus medius) significantly change their appearance to the point of being unrecognizable. The comparison criteria established in the article are explained during the analysis of the isorhythmic motet by J. Aleyn and two anonymous motets: with voice exchange and on cantus medius.


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