“The Amazing Adventures of Alexander Agricola’s Tiny Motet: Si dedero and Communities of Practice.”

Published: September 23rd, 2019

Category: Featured, News

Lecture by Professor Jennifer Thomas
University of Florida
Friday, September 27, 2019 at 1:55 pm
MUB 146

Abstract: From a twenty-first-century perspective, Alexander Agricola’s diminutive, three-voice song-style motet
from the 1480s, Si dedero, seems an unlikely candidate for stardom. Musically commonplace and textually
perplexing, its style and scope skirted the late-fifteenth-century contrapuntal developments that took pride of
place in musical establishments and in musicological attention. Its generic motives and contrapuntal idioms and
three-voice texture represent waning compositional practices. Moreover, Si dedero’s syntactically incomplete nineword
text is out of step with the musical-textual rhetoric of grander works. How did Si dedero thrive in a
remarkable twenty-seven sources—as many as Josquin des Prez’s icons of the burgeoning imitative style?
Si dedero served as a matrix in which ideas and practices from the past, present, and future gathered,
combined, and developed, embracing musical genres from chanson to mass. Its music gave rise to a network of
sacred and secular works of all genres that permeated musical establishments from north to south. It appears
without text in most of its sources, yet it must have been its texted form that served as a model for the first imitatio
masses and many liturgical motets. Its enigmatic text makes sense only in a larger context—liturgical, scriptural, or
cultural. Si dedero challenges established notions of genre, function, and prestige, and its textual and stylistic links
with Augustinian rhetoric suggest new methodologies for understanding intertextuality in music.


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