Traditional methods of stylistic analysis may be useful for delimiting repertories and musical genres on the basis of common features, but they have proved inadequate to the task of distinguishing between general style traits that a composer may choose to cultivate and the compositional voice that is uniquely his own. Particularly relevant in this regard are the questions raised by compositions ascribed to Josquin Desprez. Examples from among the psalm motets that bear his name in the sources illustrate the usefulness of stylistic criteria in establishing affinities shared by a group of works and, conversely, the radically different conclusions that have been drawn by scholars working in the field regarding specific pieces as to their composer and the date of their composition. This circumstance has apparently led to an increased reliance on source-critical criteria for accepting or rejecting Josquin's authorship.
Josquin's Qui habitat in adiutorio Altissimi, one of the most widely circulated and securely attributed of the psalm motets that carry the composer's name, serves as a paradigm for identifying compositional procedures that go beyond the stylistic generalities shared by Josquin and his immediate contemporaries (i.e., traits in use everywhere that could be imitated with comparative ease by a skilled composer) and that can therefore be understood as elements of Josquin's unique compositional voice. The most striking feature of this sort in Qui habitat is a skillful and ingenious use of a variety of iterative procedures, including internal repetitions that appear to be largely wanting in the music of his contemporaries even in their use of syntactic imitation.
Owing to their close identification with the composer's unique idiom, such procedures furnish a touchstone for determining the reliability of the attributions in the sources. Specifically, their presence in the small repertory of psalm motets that appear to have been more or less universally admitted to the Josquin canon provides a basis for comparison with a number of works whose attributions to Josquin have been questioned.
- ©© 2009 by the Virginia Allan Detloff Library, C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco