The Selection of Clausula Sources for Thirteenth- Century Motets: Some Practical Considerations and Aesthetic Implications

Kidwell, Susan A.

In addressing questions of compositional process, scholars of medieval polyphony have relatively little on which to build. They cannot gain insight from reading explicit written testimonies by medieval composers; nor can they look to evidence such as sketches, drafts, or revisions for guidance. Instead, they can only study theoretical accounts of how to compose good discant and examine the surviving pieces themselves to increase their understanding of medieval compositional process. Of all the surviving types of medieval music, the early Latin motet offers perhaps the best opportunity to explore aspects of compositional process, for the vast majority of early Latin motets were created in several observable stages. In brief, I shall identify factors that may have attracted medieval "composers" to select certain types of clausula models for early Latin motets. I shall then consider the extent to which their criteria for selection apply to other segments of the thirteenth-century motet repertory. As I will show, the initial selection criteria not only reflected practical considerations, but also had long-range aesthetic implications for the stylistic development of the medieval motet.



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January 7, 2015