Definition and background:
A polyphonic vocal style of composition. The motet was popular in the middle ages, when it consisted of a tenor foundation upon which other tunes were added. The texts of these voices could be sacred or secular, Latin or French, and usually had little to do with each other, with the result that the composition lacked unity and direction. During the 14th century, isorhythm came into use and other rhythmic refinements, somewhat unifying the sound and texture of the motet. By the Renaissance, the separate voices of the motet had adopted the same text (by this time the texts were religious almost without exception) and each voice was considered a part of the whole rather than a whole in itself, thus finally giving the motet unity and grace. from the French term "mot" (word). The medieval motet is a polyphonic genre which originated in the thirteenth century in which the upper voice or voices are texted (usually syllabically) and the bottom voice, the tenor, is untexted. The tenor is usually an excerpt from a solo section of chant (though a few are drawn from secular models), but the excerpt has been provided with rhythm and may be repeated or manipulated. Though early motets are sacred, by the end of the thirteenth century the newly-created texts of the top lines often deal with secular topics such as love. See motet, double; motet, early; conductus-motet; Franconian motet; Petronian motet; isorhythm. See also conductus (polyphonic).
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary