Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Kirkman, Andrew. “The Invention of the Cyclic Mass.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 54 (Spring 2001): 1-47.

Much scholarship has emphasized the development of the cyclic mass as a watershed moment in music history that ushered in the music of the Renaissance. Among these cyclic masses, cantus firmus masses have been singled out as historically and artistically superior to songs, motets, and other masses because of their unified aesthetic and coherence over a larger form. These modern perceptions, however, do not align with fourteenth- and fifteenth-century realities: the writings of theorists, copying records, executors’ accounts, contemporary remarks, and musical manuscripts show that masses, whether based on cantus firmi or not, were not necessarily viewed as larger units until the mid-fifteenth century, and structural coherence was not a primary concern. Rather, mass movements were conceived as separate motets and valued as demonstrations of the greatest diversity of musical expressions and compositional techniques. Modern emphasis on the importance of cyclic masses (and especially the cantus firmus mass) and their unified structural elements were largely constructs of Hegelian- and Enlightenment-influenced thinking. By suggesting that composers such as Du Fay united their music with aesthetic rather than liturgical considerations in mind, nineteenth century scholars portrayed these composers as some of the first self-conscious artists, building upon the past, yet freeing themselves from external constraints and exercising their genius.

Index Classifications: General, 1400s

Contributed by: Amanda Jensen

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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