Contemporary Use for the Parody Mass

In the fifteenth century, it was very common to encounter parody masses, mass settings that used multiple voices – an entire texture – of a preëxisting piece of music, such as a fragment of a motet or a secular chanson, as part of its melodic material. Just think of the possibilities; imagine the echoes that can be heard.

One of the notable examples of a parody mass is Cristóbal de Morales’s Missa Mille Regretz (1544), based on Josquin des Prez’s chanson ‘Mille Regretz’. The chanson’s kind of emo:

A thousand regrets at deserting you
and leaving behind your loving face,
I feel so much sadness and such painful distress,
that it seems my days will soon dwindle away.

The mass setting based on the chanson might be suitable for such a time as Lent (with Gloria omitted). Another song that’s served as material for masses is ‘L’Homme Armé’.

Obviously I’m not suggesting that anyone use a Britney Spears song as source material for church music, but let’s think about what we may be able to do intertextually with this technique. If you use a well-known song as a unifying force for a cyclic mass, you’ll obviously be evoking the sense of that preëxisting song as a way to understand the mass as a whole. Perhaps something like 《被遺忘的時光》 could serve as that kind of material.

Can this work?


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