Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music


Peter Martin Lefferts, The Motet in England in the Fourteenth Century (PhD, Columbia University, 1983)

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The history of polyphonic music in late medieval England is difficult to
reconstruct on account of the paucity of intact sources, the concomitant lack of
a substantial number of complete pieces, and the difficulty with which the
surviving repertoire can be associated with any specific institutions or social
milieu. Nonetheless, there are significant scattered remains, and this study
endeavors to examine in detail one important genre, the motet, in light of all
surviving music, placing a great deal of weight on the analysis of fragments.
The evidence suggests that the motet was cultivated for the larger abbeys and
monastic cathedrals, primarily Benedictine, Cistercian, and Augustinian houses.
It was a sacred genre, and in typical larger collections there was probably
provision of a motet for all major feasts of the Temporale and Sanctorale,
though the precise role of the motet in the liturgy, whether as an interpolation
or as a direct substitute for ritual plainchant, is not yet established. The
thesis is organized in four large chapters and two appendices. Chapter One
discusses the validity of the temporal limits imposed on the thesis
(ca.1300-1400) , the problems of the definition of the motet genre and its
function, and the problem of establishing a chronology for sources and
individual pieces. Chapter Two establishes a typology for motet structures;
demonstrating that the English intensely cultivate a few clear archetypes for
motet form in the earlier part of the century, producing pieces of high musical
interest and fascinating detail, and showing also that indigenous features were
not entirely eradicated under French influence in the latter half of the
century. The third chapter reviews the notational systems that developed in
England in the 14th century, both in relationship to earlier English mensural
notations and also to contemporaneous continental systems. The fourth chapter
discusses features of the motet texts, concentrating on subject matter, sources
and models for text language, and certain aspects of versification. A lengthy
first appendix contains critical reports, texts, and transcriptions for most of
the 14th-century repertoire; a short second appendix lists the 13th-century
English motet repertoire with two transcriptions.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • A Note to the Reader
  • Chapter I: Basic Issues
    • Introduction
    • Boundaries and Definition of the Motet as Genre
      • The Function of the Motet
      • Temporal Limits


    • Chronology and Style
      • Range
      • Four-Part Writing



  • Chapter II: Typology of Motet Structures
    • Introduction
    • Isomelic Motets
      • Motets With Strict Voice Exchange
        • The 13th Century
        • The 14th Century
        • Large-Scale Sectional Voice Exchange
      • Motets with Varied Voice Exchange
        • The Caius Motets
        • Other Varied Voice Exchange
      • Strophic Repeat With Variation
      • Refrain Motets
    • Motets with Periodic Phrase Structures
      • Motets Isoperiodic on Long and Breve
      • The Duet Motets with Medius Cantus
      • Other Motets Isoperiodic in B and S
      • Other Periodicity
    • Other Insular Motet Types
      • Motets with Varied Rhythmic Patterning of the Tenor
      • Petronian Motets
      • The Remainder
    • The Later 14th Century
      • Ob 7 and DRc 20 Rear Leaves
      • English Isorhythm
      • The Indigenous Tradition
    • Summary
  • Chapter III: Motet Notations
    • Introduction
    • 13th-Century English Mensural Notations
      • Conclusion
    • Franconian Notation and the Semibreve
      • Rhythmic Interpretation of Semibreve Groups
        • Evidence of Musical Sources


    • A Notational Complex
      • The Notation of Triumphus patet
      • The Signum Rotundum
    • Breve-Semibreve Notation
      • Motets in Breve-Semibreve Notation
    • Binary Mensuration
    • Other Insular Notational Peculiarities
      • The Brevis Erecta
      • The Notation of Rests
    • Summary
  • Chapter IV: The Texts of the Motets
    • Introduction
    • Motet Subject Matter
      • The Saints
      • External References in the Motet Texts


    • Other Repertories
      • Continental Motets
      • The Carol and the Devotional Lyric
    • Text Contents: Sources and Models
      • Assonance
    • Vernacular Texts
    • Versification
    • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Appendices (in a separate file)
    • Introduction
    • Appendix I: Critical Reports, Texts, Transcriptions
    • Appendix II: 13-Century English Motet Repertoire