MUS-M 510-14846
 The Motet, 13th-18th Centuries (3 cr)

Time: Tu/Th 11:15A-12:30P • Room: MA 004
Instructor: Prof. Giovanni Zanovello (

Course description:
The motet is one of the most important and long-lasting genres of Western music history. For centuries it was associated with the most sophisticated compositional and textual novelties, and attracted the attention of eminent composers for a long time afterwards. At one level, this survey will offer a fairly focused overview of the history of motet. In tandem to this, we will follow a path across twelve motet sources spanning roughly 500 years and the compositions they contain, asking questions about context, performance practice, and stylistic history. We will also focus on the historiographical problems linked to the definition of the motet – a genre that stubbornly resists a satisfactory general description – in an attempt to recapture the various horizons of expectation the label 'motet' (and the others that took its place) identified for listeners, performers, and theorists.

Prerequisites: MUS-M 541 and T 508, or equivalents by examination

Textbooks: Course packet, Score packet

Life in Motet-Land: In the days before class, you will be working on your reading and listening assignments, taking notes, and sharing them through the class blog and wiki. On a typical class day, I will briefly introduce the class topic. We will then discuss the listening and reading assignments. During the last 20 minutes or so, we will alternate short lectures (mine) with your presentations on sources.

Course goals / expectations: During this course you will develop a higher familiarity with a number of musical sources and motet compositions from the years 1200-1700; develop some knowledge of musical paleography; improve your knowledge of the issues related to the performance of pre-classical music; investigate issues of authenticity and our relationship with the music of the past; develop communication and research skills. I am very open to questions and willing to help students individually.
I expect students to come to all classes on time, to do all the homework assigned by the deadline, and to participate to the class discussion, both in the weekly blog and during class time. I do not ban cell phones and laptop computers from my classes, but I expect the former not to interfere and the latter to be used for class-related activities.

Grading: Only the students who come to class, do the assigned homework by the deadline, and take all the tests will earn a passing grade for this class. Grading will be based on the Midterm and Final in-class exams, with extra points given for class participation. Class participation will include a presentation and participation to the class and weekly online activities. Finally, it is possible to complete a non-mandatory research project.