The Polyphonic Mass in the Fifteenth Century

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Abstract

Marian texts, devotional themes, and symbolism were prominent in all the major genres of fifteenth-century sacred music, and even secular genres sounded symbolic echoes of the Virgin. A review of the basic elements of Marian devotion and their musical manifestations can give a sense of Virgin Mary's central place in fifteenth-century music. Musicians in the fifteenth century spent considerable time singing and composing Marian music on behalf of others, but this did not stop them from seeking her intercession for themselves as well. Over the course of the century, Mary was praised with high church polyphony and music in the style of secular song. This stylistic range reflects a central paradox of Marian devotion that she was simultaneously both the exalted Queen of Heaven and a humble lady of this earth. The musical genre most closely aligned with Marian devotion in the early fifteenth century, which is called the "cantilena motet", points more to her humility than to her exaltedness.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of Fifteenth-Century Music
EditorsAnna Maria Busse Berger, Jesse Rodin
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015