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A comparison between Gregorian Chants and Motets

Updated on January 9, 2014

Music of the old world, of the Medieval and Renaissance Periods, had a religious way about them, and in particular, Gregorian Chant of Medieval times and the Motets of the Renaissance offered the public a way to express themselves. Gregorian Chants were vital to the Church, and by chanting in unison common to an capella in a covenant, Christians had a way to give their hearts closer to their god. The Renaissance Motet was used to enhance worship as well, and always performed in a sophisticated and refined manner, designed specifically to praise God in his entire mannerism. In their entirety, both the Chant and Motet offer listeners the mysticism and mysteriousness of the human vocals, the sole purpose to worship the god of their understanding.

To give an example, Pascha Nostrum by the Chants of Benevento, is a Gregorian Chant that when heard gives a very emotional mysticism about it. The actual text’s origins are from a few verses of the bible, 1 Corinthians 5:7-8; 15 Corinthians 20:20-22; Romans 6:9-11. The Timbre has very low basstones from voices that never really reach a high pitch, but had a very recitive and descending touch about it. The chant sounds as if it has a free notation with of equal note values, and has two or three note melodies, but also has a seven note tripartite sections. There is a loudness present to help give off a very strong echo within the place where it is being chanted, and is considered to have a Legato with harmonious attachment. The Purpose of this Chant was to accompany Mass Proper during Easter morning to celebrate the rising of Jesus, and the song gives continuous Allueia rather than Halleluiah, because it was composed in Latin, so it makes for harder translation into English.

The Renaissance Motet example is a slightly more vibrant song, delivered by Orlandus di Lassus, it’s title, “Osculetur me Osculo”. In it’s entirety, the motet speaks of a spouse and the aspiration to give union with god and their partner. Kiss me with a kiss, is a piece I was stumped on, but I understand in that it is also because of the Latin Translation to English. The voices that are presented in this piece are very harmonious, with vocals that ascend and descend with male and female voices. There is a medium tempo with a high density of voices, 8 voices to be exact with a waving notion. Loudness is fairly normal, but has a harmonious effect that gives the listener a very religious tone about it, helping to increase the effects of worship and such.

Both of these have similarities and differences, the vocalization of either resembling the strongest similarity, but the way both are presented vocally also gives off a major difference, one being deeper more monotone, while the other is vibrant and colorful in vocal sounds. Even though both have a religious backdrop, Pascha Nostrum is for Catholics while Osculetur me Osculo was for the Protestants and followers of Martin Luther and the protestant movement. All in all, both are religiously based and have a Latin language, and give reference to God or Jesus and his almighty duties. In my personal opinion, I think that Osculetur me Osculo gave a better vocalization, and offered a sweeter sound to the mind, although Pascha Nostrum gave me a feeling of religious zeal, and it pushed me to the edge of my seat because of the strength of the vocals. I would personally listen to a motet over a Chant, although a modern version of both would be a band called Enigma, a French singer that puts both modern and old world sounds together for a truly extraordinary experience.

In conclusion, both the Medieval Gregorian Chants and Renaissance Motets give religious reference and offer a very strong view into how life was like for citizens of the old world. The Gregorian Chants over the centuries evolved from pagan rituals and dance into a very strong plainsong dedicated to God, and eventually became motets, the refined order of Christianity and all its glories.



Chant of Benevento - Pascha Nostrum. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2011. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2011. <

"Middle Ages." N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2011.

Orlandus di Lassus-Osculetur me Osculo. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct.

"Pascha Nostrum." N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2011.

"Renaissance." N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2011.


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    • BakerRambles profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      Thank you for taking the time to read over this comparison, and I do believe he was truly right in that theory.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Johannes de Grocheio a Parisian musical theorist

      in the early 14th century believed that the motet was

      "not intended for the vulgar who do not understand its finer points and derive no pleasure from hearing it: it is meant for educated people and those who look for refinement in art."

      Voted up and interesting.


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