Definition and background:
Term used in the Medieval era to denote a freely-invented rhythmic pattern. a rhythmic pattern (longer than a motive) which is repeated exactly in an isorhythmic tenor. One refers to the "number of talea" when determining the structure of the isorhythmic voice. The talea may be augmented or diminished as long as the rhythmic proportions stay the same. See isorhythm.
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary