Partially excerpted from the Wikipedia article on motets:
In Western music, motet is a word that is applied to a number of highly varied choral musical compositions. ... [T]he Renaissance motet is a short polyphonic musical setting in imitative counterpoint, for chorus, of a religious text not specifically connected to the liturgy of a given day, and therefore suitable for use in any service. The texts of antiphons were frequently used as motet texts. This is the sort of composition that is most familiarly named by the name of "motet," and the Renaissance period marked the flowering of the form. Renaissance motets were invariably in Latin. If the language of a polyphonic choral work was the vernacular, then the work was a Madrigal.
The name "motet" was preserved into Baroque music, especially in France, where the word was applied to petits motets, sacred choral compositions whose only accompaniment was a basso continuo; and grands motets, which included instruments up to and including a full orchestra. ... In Germany, too, pieces called motets were written in the new musical languages of the Baroque. Both Latin and German languages were used, and the Baroque motets of Germany tended to be longer compositions.
Except for the Mozart Ave verum corpus there were few motets written by 18th-century composers. Motet writing was revived by 19th-century composers, especially German and French composers. And in England, anthems (in English) and motets were written. The practice has continued to the present day by composers imitating the earlier forms and styles.
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