Classical Music/El Grillo


QUESTION: Good day,

I have a question about El Grillo by Josquin, which I'm sure you are familiar with. I have read about it online but its mostly historical information. It doesn't really give me any insight to the texture, dynamic, expressive aspects, or what could have been the motivation for it. If you could take a moment to briefly explain it to me I would really appreciate it.

Thank you

ANSWER: Wonderful piece!  Here's the way I do it.  Forgive lack of accents; not possible

El grillo!  El grillo e buon cantore  
1. forte
2. firmly
3. don't whack final syllable of =cantore=; it's an unaccented ending of the word
4. similarly when it appears again

Che tienne longo verso
1. don't whack =-so= at the end; it's still an unaccented ending of the word even tho it's a long value note (soprano)

Dale [dale] grillo [grillo] canta [canta]
1. mezzo piano or mezzo forte on the first singers' words
2. delicately
3. perfect consonants
4. don't whack final text articulation - it is supposed to imitate the rubbing together of the cricket's legs; in fact, sfz p is good for each word
5. and of course the following voices are an echo at no more than mp
6. even more precision on the eighths (sorry! complain to Josquin!)

Ma no fa come...[etc.]
1. This section changes meter in some places, which is common in Renaissance music.  Usually, it's a duple meter changing to triple thru use of hemiola.  Sometimes, especially in instrumental dances (of the early Renaissance - see Pretorius), it's the same tune but set in triple meter.  This gives a completely different "melody", and I feel sure the musicians did this to "extend" the piece for dancing without having to go to extra trouble learning different music: just use the same notes and vary the counting and placement of accents (that is, change the meter).  Notice, too, that dancers with any skill would change their "meter", but as the majority of dancers (and musicians, for that matter) were untutored in the niceties of court dancing, they probably continued in duple meter!

2.  For example, there is a triple meter at the text =come=.  Although it looks like the first quarter of half-note, it's really the first half of a dotted-half unit.  Note that the tenor voice is "out of sync."  Even so, the tenors must observe the triple feel.

3.  Also see =per amore=.  The D and C[#] in the soprano at the end make another triple unit; lower voices accommodate similarly.


I hope this is what you want!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Wow... This was much more informative than I expected. Thank you! I'm also just trying to understand the piece itself not necessarily aspects of performance. I thought of some questions that I can't seem to find the answer to that will be more direct.
I'm having trouble defining the melody I hear or what sort of impression the rhythmic dimension portrays. I never really listened to this kind of music; I'm a beginner in the Renaissance.
There is definite word painting. I think the composer uses syllabic text setting but why? And how does his use of texture relate to the lyrics?
This is obviously in A Capella.

Thank you again!


The sopranos (top voice) have the melody throughout.  Or, do you not mean ~where~ the melody is located?

I'm not sure what you mean by 'rhythmic dimension.'  I mentioned in my first answer about the quickly-moving eighth-notes at the text =Dale [dale] grillo [grillo] canta [canta]= representing the cricket scratching his legs together.  Notice also that Josquin sets this text as quarter-notes and then as eighths:  the cricket is moving his legs more quickly.  (Yes, this is word painting.)  I also mentioned changing meter.

Syllabic text-setting was more common in secular music than in church music during this time.  Church music had long lines of notes on a single text syllable (called a melisma).  I suppose Josquin did it bcs it is a secular composition.

As to texture v. lyrics, all I can think of is the leg-rubbing business.

Does this help?  


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Martha Beth Lewis


I have a PhD in musicology, with expertise in medieval - Renaissance - Baroque - Classical periods, but I'll try to help you with any period.

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