Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I put up a piece the other day by Anthony Genge called "New Hockets" and a friend of mine commented that it  
"made me remember one very hot summer day when I had to walk barefoot over black pavement scattered with sharp bits of gravel."
Now the thing is that my friend is very knowledgeable about all things medieval and hocket, called 'hoquetus' in Latin, is a very medieval technique. Here are some great examples:

These hockets are from the Bamberg Codex, a manuscript containing 13th century French polyphony, including these seven pieces. So what is hocket exactly? It is a technique used in both vocal and instrumental music where a single line may be divided up between two or more voices or instruments. Early examples occur in the organum of Perotinus of Notre Dame in Paris who flourished around 1200. The seven examples heard in the clip above are from the second half of the 13th century and show the delightful effects you get when you speed up the process.

Here is how to hocket: take a single line, as in the first two measures of the example, and divide it between two voices, as in the second two measures.

Click to enlarge

Here is how the beginning of the third hocket in the clip above starts. It's a lot more fun when you are in triple time. This piece starts around the 2:18 mark in the clip.

Click to enlarge

And that is what is interesting about these hockets: they reveal to us musicians of a remote time, having a lot of fun. Now let's have a listen again to what a modern composer did with this idea:

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