A member of the Facebook group Barbershop Harmony said that in live performances of Gombert motets, the Bass will randomly drop an octave on the last chord, within one syllable, whilst the other voices hold on, but in In recordings he's only ever heard them try to do a clean change of note rather than a slide. So did Gombert compose a slide or a clean change of note for each ending of his motets?

  • 2
    Sliding down an octave sounds much more barbershop than Gombert, and if a barbershop group did do that, I daresay it would raise a smile. I'd love to think it was some bizarre tradition but I'm sure it isn't. Gombert's motets are nearly all settings of sacred texts: choral groups generally don't add their own improvements. Simply dropping to the lower octave wouldn't be surprising, but Aaron has put in the hours and found no evidence of that either. BUT some of his motets do have unaccountably long final notes. Hmm. – Old Brixtonian Sep 17 '20 at 5:17
  • 1
    Sliding down is indeed a barbershop ending! I was surprised to here that Gombert used, composed barbershop endings centuries before there was such thing as barbershop! The fact that some of his motets have unaccountably long final notes is promising! – Ana Maria Sep 17 '20 at 17:05
  • I made a post moves in opera group singing, about one of the syncopated group songs in Cose Fan Tutte the ladies hold their last note while Don Alphonso slides his last note down from an unresolved position to a resolved one and one of the members said that what I'm referring to is called polyphony and said that there are books on polyphony that I should read but I forget the name of the member that said these things! Does anyone know who the member is? – Ana Maria Dec 23 '20 at 21:10

Scores from that time are more a record of the pitches and rhythms than suggestive of performance style. Things like slides and ornaments in general would be left to the performer and would be subject to local tastes and fashions.


In looking through Gombert scores on IMSLP, I see no evidence that Gombert composed glissandos or a change in octave.

  • In Gombert's day, it was common to have cadences in three parts in which the bass jumps an octave. I cannot think of any examples of an octave drop in a final cadence. Can you add one to the answer? – phoog Sep 17 '20 at 21:34
  • @phoog I didn't mean to imply that this was standard practice for Gombert. Does my edit improve things? – Aaron Sep 17 '20 at 22:18
  • Mainly I can't connect your statement about octave drops with any confidence to anything I've encountered commonly in a few decades of singing. I have some guesses, but I am uncertain that the guesses are correct. I am therefore not certain what we're talking about here, so I was hoping you would illustrate. – phoog Sep 17 '20 at 22:39
  • 1
    @phoog I had in mind popular a cappella styles like barbershop, doo-wop, and such, where, for effect, the bass will slide down an octave at the end of a song. – Aaron Sep 18 '20 at 3:31
  • 1
    Can you provide an example? I don't believe I have ever encountered such a thing, despite being a bass singer who has sung and listened to a fair amount of barbershop and doo-wop over the last 35 years. – phoog Sep 18 '20 at 8:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.