Motet: De profundis clamavi ad te
Josquin des Prez (ca. 1450s-1521)
That Josquin groove is going to work every time. It is the Ars Nova of his past and the common time of his future. In a slow progression of radiant steps Josquin teaches us the hierarchy of quarter time (though he knew it by another name). And, as happens in hierarchies, the strong (beats one and two) are separated from the weak (beats three and four). Triple time, its handy symbolism yielding less than our antique patriarchs had hoped, will find a better home in secular life.
The uniqueness of this piece is not apparent in the look of the score. For us, there are a lot of pieces that look like this one. The chorales that were written some two hundred years after Josquin's career provide us with an overabundance of four-voice part writing in quarter time. But the sound of this piece, when performed as well as it is here, is enough to make the listener regret that it can only be heard for the first time once. This is accomplished with a very bland harmonic pallet. But the chords simply do not matter. In fact, their blandness helps keep them out of the way. The passion of this piece is found in the clarity of the voice writing, the uniqueness of each voice, and the rhythm of the text.
What I like about this motet is the way Josquin explores the range of this ensemble. Though the voices blend without a fault, the listener is aware of their distinct registers. With such voices, Josquin is able to take the listener to each register or wider range gradually, each step radient.