Citations: The Renaissance Imitation Mass Project


Allusion and the Imtiation Mass

The allusiveness of musical discourse is so fundamental to the Western tradition that it is hard to imagine a work that does not in some way make reference to some other composition, type or topic.Citations: The Renaissance Imitation Mass (CRIM) focuses on an important but neglected part of this allusive tradition: the so-called Imitation or Parody Mass of the sixteenth century, in which a composer transformed a short motet, madrigal, chanson into a long five-movement cyclic setting of the Ordinary of the Catholic Mass: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei.

The resulting works (many hundreds of them survive in music books of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries) are far more than collections of quotations. The sheer scope of the transformation–in which a work that lasted perhaps five minutes was recast as a cycle lasting thirty minutes or more—required the composer to thoroughly re-think the model, adapting pre-existent melodies to fit new words, and shifting, extending, or compressing them to new musical contexts and expressive purposes. If counterpoint is a craft of combinations, then the Imitation Mass involves the craft of recombination on a massive scale.

Musical Analysis: Types and Topics

CRIM presents these complex patterns of borrowing and transformation as musical Relationships, each of which consists of a pair of Observations (one from Model, the other from its derivative Mass). New digital technologies present the two related scores with selected highlights indicating the musical connections between the passages, along with an array of analytic metadata and commentary by one of our participating scholars or student analysts. All of these, in turn, are presented in a platform that permits users to find, cite, and discuss the material in a collaborative workspace. In this respect, CRIM extends and enhances an topological approach to analysis undertaken in The Lost Voices Project.

Want to know more? See our Brief Introduction to CRIM Analysis, or the detailed explanations of our Controlled Vocabularies in the CRIM Workspace and Editorial Hub.