Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Todd, R. Larry. "Retrograde, Inversion, Retrograde-Inversion, and Related Techniques in the Masses of Obrecht." The Musical Quarterly 64 (January 1978): 50-78.

In the Missa L'homme armé, Missa De tous bien plaine, Missa Fortuna desperata, and Missa Petrus Apostolus, Jacob Obrecht presents the cantus firmus in retrograde, inversion, or a combination of the two. On occasion, Obrecht also uses the original or a derivative form of the cantus firmus in transposition, apparent in his Missa Graecorum, which requires adjustments to the cantus firmus to accommodate Obrecht's canonic inscription. In other masses, Obrecht manipulates the cantus firmus through his segmentation technique witnessed in masses such as Maria zart, De tous bien plaine, Malheur me bat, Rose playsante, Je ne demande, and Si dedero. Obrecht's use of predetermined formal elements shows a great consideration for unity and cyclic structure in his works. The fascination with strict "serial-like" cantus firmus procedures, however, finds precedent in the masses of other fifteenth century composers. Retrograde can be found in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century manuscripts, and retrograde-inversion appears in an anonymous Gloria from the "Fountains Fragment" and in the more famous Dunstable isorhythmic motet, Veni sancte spiritus et emitte. Busnois makes use of these techniques in more than one work, including his L'homme armé mass, which contains an inversion in the Agnus Dei according to a canonic rule written under the vocal part, and in his motet In Hydraulis, which derives its tenor from a three-note figure that may be interpreted as a large-scale palindrome. A close musical relationship might exist between Busnois and Obrecht, particularly between their L'homme armé masses. Obrecht's mass is indebted to Busnois in using the techniques of retrograde and inversion during sections of the mass where Busnois had also incorporated those procedures. A striking deviation occurs during the Agnus Dei, where Obrecht uses retrograde-inversion in contrast to Busnois's use of inversion. In Obrecht's Missa De tous bien plaine, an even more radical transformation of the cantus firmus takes place in which he orders the borrowed pitches in terms of their rhythmic value from the longest to the shortest. Furthermore, his Missa Graecorum involves rhythmic reordering of the cantus firmi, inversion, and retrograde-inversion. These masses thus demonstrate Obrecht's affinity for systematic and "serial" cantus firmus organization and associate him with Busnois, who employed similar compositional tools.

Works: Obrecht: Missa Graecorum (51-52, 66-69), Missa L'homme armé (51, 56-57), Missa De tous bien plaine (51-52, 5860), Missa Fortuna desperata (51, 61-62), Missa Petrus Apostolus (51, 64-65), Missa Maria zart (52), Missa Malheur me bat (52), Missa Rose playsante (52), Missa Je ne demande (52), Missa Si dedero (52), Missa Salve diva parens (63-64); Dunstable: Veni sancte spiritus et emitte (53-54); Busnois: Missa L'homme armé (55), In hydraulis (55), Conditor alme siderum (55), J'ai pris amours tout au rebours (55).

Sources: Busnois: Missa L'homme armé (56-57), Fortuna desperata (61-62); Hayne van Ghizeghem: De tous bien plaine (58-60); Antiphon: Petrus Apostolus (64-65).

Index Classifications: 1400s

Contributed by: Mary Ellen Ryan

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