Mapping the post-Tridentine motet (ca. 1560-ca. 1610): Text, style and performance

The University of Nottingham, 17-19 April 2015

All the most relevant composers of the late sixteenth century (from Palestrina to Byrd, from Guerrero to Lassus) composed and published motets, undoubtedly responding to the needs of both their employing institutions and the printing market. Likewise, they were surely receptive to contemporary shifts in spirituality and religious life (although the real extent of the Council of Trent’s direct influence still needs to be determined). The sacred counterpart to the madrigal, the motet became a workshop for experimenting with text-tone relationships, form organization, and rhetorical strategies. It often featured intriguing instances of imitatio and all sort of intertextual cross-references. Moreover, it proved a versatile medium suitable for fulfilling different functions in a wide array of contexts. This versatility also applied to the choice of texts.

In spite of all that, the post-Tridentine motet has been surprisingly neglected in recent scholarship, and many crucial questions remain unanswered. With this conference we aim to re-open the discussion on the immense corpus of polyphonic and polychoral motets produced and performed all over Europe in the period ca. 1560 to ca. 1610. Some of the questions we would like to examine are listed below, under three headings: Text, Style, and Performance (the latter including also issues of context and function). But, of course, we are open to other proposals regarding neighbouring problems.

1. Text:

  • Who chose/edited/wrote the texts?
  • For what spiritual, religious, political purposes?
  • What types of texts (and textual sources) can we distinguish?

2. Style:

  • The compositional process
  • Issues of intertextuality, imitation and emulation

3. Performance:

  • Contexts: liturgical, paraliturgical, ceremonial, recreational
  • How did motets sound? ‘Ideal’ versus ‘historical’ performances.
  • Repertories and motet books
  • The motet in inter-confessional confrontations

Invited speakers will include David Crook, Christian Leitmeir, Kerry McCarthy and Noel O’Regan.

There will also be two discussion panels, one on the influence of the Council of Trent on the late-sixteenth century motet and the other on performance issues, led by Noel O’Regan and Christian Leitmeir, and Owen Rees and Michael Noone respectively.

We intend to publish a volume containing a number of papers presented in the conference. The contributions will go through a process of selection, peer revision, and editing, as per academic standard.

Abstracts for 20-minute papers (max. 250 words) and short biographies (max. 150 words) should be sent to James Cook at <> by 10 October2014. Participants will be informed of whether their abstracts have been accepted by 1 November 2014.

Information and updates will be available soon at

Conference organizing committee: Daniele V. Filippi, Esperanza Rodríguez-García and Juan Ruiz Jiménez.