Feb 27 – Genres of Renaissance Music. 1420-1520: Sacred Vocal Music
Sacred Vocal Music: 1420-1520
– Major musical development: *Cantus Firmus technique
– Two types of sacred vocal music: the mass and the motet. Cantus firmus
used in both of these types of pieces
– Cyclic mass: a setting of all five components of the Ordinary of the Mass by
one composer which are unified musically.
– First composers of cyclic masses: Leonel Power (d. 1445) -
John Dunstable (1390-1453)
– Writing a mass cycle: now more about the musical connections than what
the piece looks like in a mass in a church. More of a musical form than as
part of a mass.
Cantus firmus – composer unifies the mass movements musically. A melody line
used in at least one voice part, repeated several times throughout a work. This
links the different parts together – like a repeating motif.
Guilliame Du Fay: first composer to use a Cantus Firmus in tow new ways:
– Take a secular song's melody
– Put the Cantus Firmus in the tenor, but put a lower voice underneath the
– Result: Missa Se la Face ay Pale.
Canon – 'rule' or 'law'
– 'Canon' at beginning of a Mass is an instruction from composer about how
Cantus Firmus is to be sung
– Typically rhythmic instructions. eg. “Sing the Cantus Firmus through twice,
the second time doubling the length of each note.”
– Repeated melodic lines in the upper voices (along w/ Cantus Firmus in lower
– Serves as unification: pieces that echo and unify
– Ideas stated at beginning, then developed throughout the piece
– Called head motifs.
The Canonic Mass
– Build round voice parts on the technique of a canon (or “round”). Often done
with the Cantus Firmus eg. Missa Prolationum (CD 2:12)
– Four voices, only two notated
– Other two are supposed to be canons with the notated voices – Voices go at different prolations
– Canons at various intervals
A Famous Cantus Firmus Melody
– Over 40 pieces o