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Explain the melody in Josquin Desprez classic Ave Maria...Virgo Serena in one paragraph.


The melody in the 15th century religious motet Ave Maria … virgo serena (first dated in copy as 1484) by Josquin Des Prez is for four voices. The fundamental voice for melody is the tenor, which combines with the three upper voices. Duos and trios in different choral voices result in melodic variations and may shift dupal meter to triple meter. Contrapuntal technique creates polyphonic tonal and melodic lines, with melodic climaxes occurring at cadences ending melodic phrases. Reiterative melodic phrases, also called "syntactic imitations," are set for all voices throughout all strophes.

Melody: The combination of sound pitches with duration (rhythm) that conveys the dominant theme throughout all variations.

Polyphonic: Consisting of two or more tonal or melodic lines. Polyphony is a European musical innovation and motets are an early representation of polyphony.

Contrapuntal: Combination of two or more separate and distinct melody lines. Counterpoint is another characteristically European music form. Counterpoint is the musical technique that creates polyphonic elements. Counterpoint consists of a vertical relationship between harmonies whereby harmonies unite and a horizontal independence between melodic lines whereby melody lines differentiate.

Cadence: A two-chord progression at the end of a musical phrase. In a motet, the imitative lines come together climatically at a cadence.

Syntactic Imitation: A contemporary term for reiterative, imitative phrases of text and melody. In a motet, the words (text) for the fundamental tenor voice are "arranged in a [melodic] pattern of reiterated rhythmic configurations" (Oxford Music Online) and the upper voices imitate the fundamental patterns. The imitative iterations of a motet may be at a faster rate and in a different language from the fundamental iterative configurations. Some speculate that mot, French for "word," is perhaps the origin of the name "motet" because a key element of a motet is the combination of different languages in the reiterative phrases.

Image: Josquin Des Prez. Wikimedia Commons.

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