* Bach had a provision in his will that if he died in a round year that everyone
could remember (1750 at age 65, or 1800 at age 115) the current musical
movement would be interred with him, and the world would have to find a new
movement because Bach (being the musical god that he was) had probably evolved
all the music of the current style to its highest possible existence and no one
should even bother writing any more.
- General Lifespan
- Originally, motet was Roman Catholic church music with Latin biblical text
sung in two parts, one of which was taken from Gregorian Chant (they just
spiced up the rhythm to make the chant more 'hip').
It seems nothing can live for more than 5 centuries without some people getting it in their
heads that 'change would be good'. First came the French, who figured it
would be a hoot if they replaced the Latin church text with dirty
lyrics. These 'specially altered' motets never really caught on in church.
And so was born the secular (non-religious) motet.
Near 1400, a new musical revolution hit called the Ars Nova (New Art). The
motet was hit pretty hard, but it stayed afloat (with a few minor alterations).
The Gregorian Chant basis was dropped, and it generally got longer and more
Enter the Flemms - who rescued the motet from the French doom. Religious text
was reinstated, and it moved back into church (this time taking a back seat to
the mass). Oh, yeah - it got even longer and even more complex.
Now (1600) we're up to 6 parts - and long enough to be divided into 2 or 3
sections. But we are religious (again), and still only vocal. But another new
musical movement is around the corner...
Baroque changes to the motet included new languages for text, added
instruments for accompaniment, and use of solo vocalists for confusion.
The motet then died (give or take) along with the Baroque movement, and J.S.
Bach himself* in 1750. And few people have cared about it since.
- Composers of Motets
- Machaut, DuFay, Dunstable, Lasso, Palestrina, Scarlatti, Bach, Mozart
- The motet lived a long life, and in the end it in no way resembled itself.
Highly interesting Post Script!
The word motet comes from the Latin motetus meaning movement. When two or
more parts move in different ways the piece is called a motet. It has
nothing to do with lyrics: there are numerous instrumental motets - or the
fact that a piece is religious - there are numerous secular pieces. The very
first usually called round 'Summer is icomen' is not a round, it's a motet.
I know almost all history books tell you differently. They're wrong.