Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Rifkin, Joshua. “Obrecht, Double Counterpoint, and Musical Memory.” The Musical Quarterly 104 (November 2021): 61-70.

The Benedictus of Jacob Obrecht’s Missa Malheur me bat contains an unusual treatment of the borrowed voices of its model, Malcort’s Malheur me bat. Obrecht’s bassus voice corresponds exactly to Malcort’s superius voice for the first nine measures transposed down a twelfth. Subjected to this transformation, the contrapuntal relationship between pitches, save for the rare simultaneous sixths, remain the same. This procedure uses the underlying principle of double counterpoint, despite being composed in an era before written music theory codified the practice in the mid-sixteenth century. The purpose of this segment of double counterpoint also warrants consideration as the transformation remains hidden, suggesting it was simply an economical means of filling out a section of music. The construction of the Benedictus without the presence of a full score further implies that Obrecht had a powerful aural memory of Malheur me bat, conceivably from performing the piece at Bergen-op-Zoom between 1480 and 1484. The suggestion of such an aural memory implies Obrecht heard the piece as a unitary whole, not unlike modern listeners. This idea raises problems as a “presentist” approach to music history. However, to say that Obrecht may have heard Malheur me bat in a presently relatable way does not mean that he brought all of the contemporary baggage to it.

Works: Jacob Obrecht: Missa Malheur me bat

Sources: Malcort: Malheur me bat

Index Classifications: 1400s

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