Hui main/Hec dies, 13th century by Motet

The motet Hui main/Hec dies represents the early medieval music and shows a unique combination of the musical; a palette of the period and the text. It is important to note that in this motet each voice has its own sharply marked characteristics. In the motet, the tenor melody is repeated five times, but with vitiation composed above it each time. It is possible to say that this rhythmic repletion adds color to melodic capacity. This repletion coincides with syntagma in the text and can be seen as a logical ending of the sentence. The author describes how he meets the maiden in an orchard “in the month of May”.

Each line of the text logically fits the musical phrase. These five lines combine the freedom of expansive melismatic lines with the precision of an almost pure counterpoint. Dissonances on longer notes are avoided; as a consequence, the intervals between the upper voices. The length and shape of the phrases are predictable, almost rational. There are no constant rhythmic ebb and flow. The cadence formulas are carefully differentiated, although there is a certain preference for the fall of a third into the penultimate note (Apel, 953, p. 272).

In this motet, there is an inappropriateness between the two parts. This structure reflects the textual meaning and rhythmic structure of the text (7-11 lines of the text). The juxtaposition of f -b in the top voice and some more or less hidden tritone intervals produce a sound reminiscent of music; this can also be said of the passage, which may be intended as word-painting. The words are set with almost no regard for spoken word accents (which in Latin are hypothetical anyway); most syllables are extended melismatically, and in different ways in the two top voices. Despite the amazing variety of detail, the large-scale structure is worked out with arithmetic precision. On the condition that the last chord,) is excluded from the calculation. (Apel, 953, p. 274).

Simple arithmetic proportions are a characteristic of this motet. It is possible to say that this technique helps the composer to follow the rhythm of the text and its musical structure. The motet has several consonances which underline tactual meaning and pity of the narrator (speaker) The addition of a single semibreve at the end of the middle section, which would increase its length, would make the section relate to b +c in the ratio 5:6 (Hoppin, 2002, p. 6).

In this motet, special attention should be paid to the counterpoint. The basic tune was treated like a leading mode in notes of equal length; each note corresponding to one step. The notation’ in which they are written does not permit an easy interpretation in the regular rhythm found in the motet. The text discloses that the piece is a witty message to a musician colleague. He is being challenged to ‘harmonize’ the piece, i.e. to put the parts together (Hoppin, 2002, p. 6).

There is a contrast of unison and harmony used as commonplace with choirs. In this motet, the antiphony is passed back and forth from the main motet. In this part, the repetition is exact, both in melody and in rhythm. A mode is repeated in a different rhythm, Intervalic structure adds emotional coloring and emotional tension. The rhythmical patterns are maintained, but the melody is broken up into different parts (Apel,1953, p. 274).

In sum, the composer avoids all strict repetition or sequential patterns; while all the material appears as if it had grown from the mother-antiphon, it is also continuously transformed. The motet has a rather instrumental character, although it might be performed by one good singer alone. The motet shows a unique and successful combination of textual meaning with musical rhymes and patterns which imitate the textual rhythm and literary meaning of the text.


Apel, W. (1953). The Notation of Polyphonic Music, 900-1600. Mediaeval Academy of America.

Hoppin, R. H. (2002). Anthology of Medieval Music. W. W. Norton & Company.