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Hockets Broken and Integrated in Early Mensural Theory and an Early Motet

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Curran, SP 


Notwithstanding recent discoveries of big, textless hockets from the late thirteenth century, there remains a pervasive uncertainty as to how hockets should be defined and identified on the small scale at which they characteristically manifest in thirteenth-century motets. Revisiting the mensural theorists up to Franco of Cologne this article finds that only with Franco must hockets be multi-voice phenomena: earlier texts define the hocket at the level of a single perfection, and as it manifests in the breaking of a single performing voice. Under a revised definition, 138 motet texts that use hockets are identified in the Ars Antiqua repertory. A second look at the St Emmeram Anonymous (who builds on Lambertus more than he lets on) finds that he acknowledges but departs from the consensus that the hocket is sonically fragmented, also hearing it as a promise of the co-ordination achievable when musical time is measured. For him, the hocket had a dual character, its sonic fragmentation contrived through integrated planning. But hearing hockets integratively is difficult, and requires an effort of will that (for St Emmeram) has moral stakes.

The final sections of the article analyse the musicopoetic games of the motet Dame de valour (71) / Dame vostre douz regart (72) / MANERE (M5), finding that (like St Emmeram), the piece self-consciously highlights the difficulty and worth of close listening (a theme inspired by its tenor’s scriptural source). Through the cloud of citational references that cut across the parts, forged by materials drawn from the motet’s refrains, we are invited to hear with understanding the formal patterns the same materials build in each individual voice, and a reciprocity at which those patterns arrive. The hocket depicts a vocal failure caused by heartbreak just as the triplum stages the composition of a new song out of the experience of love: the hocket marks a complementarity of breaking and integration, and of a formal sort. Several decades before St Emmeram would reflect on the hocket’s dual character theoretically, the motet’s composer knew it as a creative resource, and turned to it as a means of posing artfully some questions about the audibility of form that preoccupy modern scholarship. The motetus’s narrator seems to understand what is going on: falling silent in his hocket, he receives a message that has transformative effects on him, whose implications I conclude by pondering. Across eight centuries, these voices from the thirteenth century might remind us that ethical debates about correct listening are much older than current disciplinary concerns. But recognizing the debate’s longevity does not force us to agree with old positions.



3603 Music, 36 Creative Arts and Writing

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Early Music History

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Cambridge University Press