Quodlibet

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A quodlibet is a piece of music combining several different melodies, usually popular tunes, in counterpoint and often a light-hearted, humorous manner. The term is Latin, meaning "whatever" or literally, "what pleases." There are three main types of quodlibet:

  • A catalogue quodlibet consists of a free setting of catalogue poetry (usually humorous lists of loosely related items).
  • In a successive quodlibet, one voice has short musical quotations and textual quotations while the other voices provide homophonic accompaniment.
  • In a simultaneous quodlibet, two or more pre-existing melodies are combined.[1] The simultaneous quodlibet may be considered a historical antecedent to the modern-day musical mashup.

Contents

History

Renaissance

The origins of the quodlibet can be traced to the 15th century, when the practice of combining folk tunes was popular.[2] Composer Wolfgang Schmeltzl first used the term in a specifically musical context in 1544.[3] An early exponent of the genre was 16th century composer Ludwig Senfl whose ability to juxtapose several pre-existing melodies in a cantus firmus quodlibet resulted in works such as Ach Elselein/Es taget, a piece noted for its symbolism rather than its humor.[3] Even earlier we can find another example in Francisco de Peñalosa's Por las sierras de Madrid, from his Cancionero Musical de Palacio. However, it was Praetorius who, in 1618, provided the first systematic definition of the quodlibet as "a mixture of diverse elements quoted from sacred and secular compositions".[citation needed][4] During the Renaissance, a composer's ability to juxtapose several pre-existing melodies, such as in the cantus firmus quodlibet, was considered the ultimate mastery of counterpoint.[3]

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