MOTET, a musical art-form of paramount importance in the i6th century. The word is of doubtful etymology, and probably has more than one origin. Thus modulus suggests modulus or melody, and probably connects with motetus or motellus, which designates one of the middle parts in early vocal compositions. On the other hand, the Italian word mottetto (diminutive of motto) suggests the French mot (in the sense of bon mot) and is associated with a profane art-form contemporary with the con ductus and rondel of the 13th and 14th centuries.
The only mature art-form denoted by the word motet is that of i6th century pieces of liturgical polyphonic music in one or two (rarely more) continuous movements. The word is, however, used for any single Latin-text composition in continuous form, not set sectionally verse by verse, and not forming a permanent part of the mass. Thus Palestrina's Stabat mater is included among his motets ; though the text is metrical and rhymed, and the style is that of the homophonic litanies. The title of motet is also loosely used for non-ecclesiastical works, such as the dedi catory motet at the beginning of Palestrina's fifth book.
The most important kind of motet is that which is written for a particular holy day. Such motets are sung between the Credo and the Sanctus of the mass. They are often founded on the Gregorian tones of their texts, and the mass is founded on the same themes, thus giving the whole service a musical unity which has never since been approached in any Church music even under Bach. When a motet was not founded on Gregorian tones it was
still possible for the composer to design a mass on the same themes, and the titles of i6th century masses, when they do not indicate a secular or diplomatic origin, indicate either the motet or the Gregorian tones on which they are founded. The accompany ing illustration is one of the most perfect examples existing, and the illustration in the article MASS shows how Victoria uses the themes of this motet in his mass with the same title. In the pres ent illustration, the bar-strokes (unknown in i6th century part books) are drawn irregularly so as to show the free rhythms. Typ ical points are the runs and slow triple rhythm at "gaudent"; the note-against-note swinging rhythm at "amicti stolis albis" and the naïve illustration of "sequuntur Agnum." When such a motet is associated with a mass it is a crime to perform the mass without it. Sometimes one composer founded a mass on another com poser's motet ; thus Soriano's fine Missa Nos autem gloriari, is based upon a motet by Palestrina, and Palestrina's Missa Quem dicunt homines is on a motet by Willaert. When a motet was in two movements the second movement always ended with the last clauses of the first, both in text and in music, producing a dis tinct impression of da capo form. In later times the term motet indicates any piece of Church music of clearly single design, re gardless of language or of place in a liturgy. (D. F. T.)