Dissertation Index

Author: Lavacek, Justin

Title: Contrapuntal Confrontation and Expressive Signification in the Motets of Machaut

Institution: Indiana University

Begun: May 2008

Completed: December 2011


In this dissertation, I develop a methodology for interpreting the interactions of contrapuntal lines in a selection of motets by Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377). In these works, the polyphony may be divided into two groups: the borrowed tenor and the newly-composed upper-voice pair. It was stylistic of the medieval French motet that all added voices be composed in relation to and so amplify the tenor voice, whose contrapuntal authority may derive from its source in chant. Machaut’s polyphony largely adheres to the pitch structure and phrasing of his self-imposed cantus firmus, suggesting a contrapuntal relationship analogous to the fidelity of the amorous lover found in the poetry. Yet there are times when his adorning voices boldly reinterpret the tenor, thus undermining its function as a musical foundation by directing the course of the whole. This study will interrogate the notion that the tenor solely or simply determines the polyphony. It will reveal a dynamic rather than fixed relationship, wherein the newly-composed voices may engage with their progenitor. With its focus on intentional misreadings of chant, this analytical viewpoint suggests that the polyphonist ultimately allows the tenor its control over the whole, and Machaut only grants this by degrees in his motets. With the musical and textual forces perceived in creative dialogue, a richer reading of the multifarious fourteenth-century motet as a genre emerges.

Keywords: Machaut, motet, counterpoint, medieval, contrapunctus, fourteenth-century, contest, conformance


Part 1
I. Introduction
II. Two Case Studies: "Conformance" and "Contest"

Part 2
III. Degrees of Conformance
IV. Rereading Motets
V. The Chanson-Motets: Contest within Conformance
VI: Contest and Musical Form
VII: A Surrogate Idol
VIII: "Ma fin est mon commencement"
IX: Intertextuality and Form

Part 3
X: Future Applications
XI: Conclusion

Appendix 1: Summary of Cited Motets
Appendix 2: Cited Motet Scores (ed. Schrade)



     Return to dissertations