1. Creating a Constellation of Texts

M1 is based on a melisma from a chant belonging to matins of Holy Saturday, the day of expectation before Easter.

Sound and Score    ¦    Facsimile

Easter is the most important day in the Christian year, the celebration of the fulfilment of human salvation by Christ’s resurrection. The melisma itself, by its text Amara valde derived from the prophetic books of the Old Testament, points even further, to that ‘great and very bitter’ Day of Judgment that will come, on which the human soul will be accepted or refused by the supreme Judge. Thus the tenor evokes mixed feelings of expectation, joyful in the awaiting of the fulfilment of Easter, fearful when thinking of the final acceptance or refusal on the Day of Judgment. In the French texts of the upper voices the problem is also acceptance or refusal, but now of the lover by his lady.

Motet 1 Texts and Translations

In the motetus the lover vows to love ‘perfectly’ and asks his lady for grace, but on the express condition that it will not impair her honour. Since a lady of honour must never confess her love openly, this implies that the lover will have to wait endlessly for the fulfilment of his love. In the triplum the lover has just fallen in love for the first time and is uncertain about the outcome of his courtship, but also here he is kept waiting and must serve faithfully with only a faint hope of his love being fulfilled in the future. This makes him exclaim, sighing, that ‘amer’ (to love) is ‘amer’ (bitter), a classic wordplay in courtly poetry; the sound and signification of those words correspond with that of the tenor word ‘Amara’ which is so similar in sound to ‘Amare’ (to love). Thus the motet deals not only with the beginning of love but also with its possible outcome, its ‘perfection’. Waiting for fulfilment and striving for perfection are the feelings which the three texts have in common, but in opposed ways, positive and negative, as a fundamental tension.


Jacques Boogaart