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The motet-chanson was a specialized musical form of the Renaissance
Renaissance music
Renaissance music is European music written during the Renaissance. Defining the beginning of the musical era is difficult, given that its defining characteristics were adopted only gradually; musicologists have placed its beginnings from as early as 1300 to as late as the 1470s.Literally meaning...

, developed in Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

 during the 1470s and 1480s, which combined aspects of the contemporary motet
In classical music, motet is a word that is applied to a number of highly varied choral musical compositions.-Etymology:The name comes either from the Latin movere, or a Latinized version of Old French mot, "word" or "verbal utterance." The Medieval Latin for "motet" is motectum, and the Italian...

 and chanson
A chanson is in general any lyric-driven French song, usually polyphonic and secular. A singer specialising in chansons is known as a "chanteur" or "chanteuse" ; a collection of chansons, especially from the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, is also known as a chansonnier.-Chanson de geste:The...


It consisted of usually three voice parts, with the tenor
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...

 voice, the lowest, singing a sacred text in Latin, usually drawn from chant
Gregorian chant
Gregorian chant is the central tradition of Western plainchant, a form of monophonic liturgical music within Western Christianity that accompanied the celebration of Mass and other ritual services...

, while the two upper voices sang a secular text in French. Generally the French text was either a commentary on the Latin text or served in a kind of symbolic relation to it. The tenor voice served as a cantus firmus
Cantus firmus
In music, a cantus firmus is a pre-existing melody forming the basis of a polyphonic composition.The plural of this Latin term is , though the corrupt form canti firmi is also attested...

, and usually sang in long notes, with phrases separated by long rests, while the upper voices, singing more quickly, followed the rigid formal structure of the contemporary formes fixes
Formes fixes
A Forme fixé is any one of three fourteenth and fifteenth centuries French poetic forms, the ballade, rondeau and virelai...

, particularly the rondeau
Rondeau (music)
The rondeau was a Medieval and early Renaissance musical form, based on the contemporary popular poetic rondeau form. It is distinct from the 18th century rondo, though the terms are likely related...

 and the bergerette
A bergerette, or shepherdess' air, is a form of early rustic French song.The bergerette, developed by Burgundian composers is a virelai with only is single stanza. It is one of the "fixed forms" of early French song and related to the rondeau. Examples include Josquin's Bergerette savoyene included...


The three most prominent composers of motet-chansons were Josquin des Prez
Josquin Des Prez
Josquin des Prez [Josquin Lebloitte dit Desprez] , often referred to simply as Josquin, was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance...

, Loyset Compère
Loyset Compère
Loyset Compère was a French composer of the Renaissance. Of the same generation as Josquin des Prez, he was one of the most significant composers of motets and chansons of that era, and one of the first musicians to bring the light Italianate Renaissance style to France.-Life:His exact place of...

, and Alexander Agricola
Alexander Agricola
Alexander Agricola was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance. A prominent member of the Grande chapelle, the Habsburg musical establishment, he was a renowned composer in the years around 1500, and his music was widely distributed throughout Europe...

, all of whom were in Milan, Italy, during the late 15th century as part of the progressive and opulent musical establishment of the Sforza family. Other composers who wrote motet-chansons included Johannes Prioris
Johannes Prioris
Johannes Prioris was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance. He was one of the first composers to write a polyphonic setting of the Requiem mass....

 and Johannes Martini
Johannes Martini
Johannes Martini was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance.-Life:He was born in Brabant around 1440, but information about his early life is scanty. He probably received his early training in Flanders, as did most of the composers of his generation...

. Of these, only Prioris is not known to have been in Milan, but then relatively little is known about his life.

Josquin wrote three motet-chansons: Que vous madame/In pace, A la mort/Monstra te esse matrem, and Fortune destrange plummaige/Pauper sum ego. Que vous madame had circulated widely by 1490; it was one of the earliest of Josquin's compositions to do so.

It has been inferred that the motet-chanson repertory may once have been much larger than is now known, since many of the surviving sources give only the Latin text for three-voice compositions of otherwise similar texture. It may be that the uppermost voices for some of these once had secular French words, now lost.