'IN DECIMIS'. ON THE SPECIFICITY OF 'GERMAN' POLYPHONY TOWARDS THE END OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY
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Since the days of Hugo Riemann (1907) the technique of conducting extreme parts of a composition in parallel tenths accompanying the long-note cantus firmus, is regarded as a specific feature of polyphony in the German-speaking area towards the end of the fifteenth century. The wide popularity of this technique, both in three- and four-voice pieces, is confirmed by the musical pieces of Adam of Fulda and in the anonymous Saxon and Silesian repertory of that time. The question is whether this technique was actually limited to the repertory composed in this area as a specifically 'German' polyphonic tradition, or it was an element of the universal musical language at the close of the fifteenth century. The answer to the question should be sought both in the musical legacy of the composers who were active in various area of Latin Europe and in the then theoretical reflections. As the studies have shown, the technique of conducting extreme parts in the interval of the tenth cannot be regarded as a useful criterion for origin. The reason is that it was one of the common devices in the composer's methods in the last decades of the fifteenth century, which was employed both in religious and secular music. The sources of its exceptional popularity in the German-speaking area should be sought first of all in its teaching values. It was a useful and easy-to-learn composition formula, which made it possible to quickly expand a two-voice construction into a three- or four-voice piece without difficulty.
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