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Title: Quodlibet  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Sound collage, Potpourri (music), Musical quotation, Musical plagiarism, Mashup (music)
Collection: Humor in Classical Music, Musical Forms, Western Classical Music Styles
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


A quodlibet (; Latin for "whatever you wish" from quod, "what" and libet, "pleases") is a piece of music combining several different melodies, usually popular tunes, in counterpoint and often a light-hearted, humorous manner. There are three main types of quodlibet:

  • A catalogue quodlibet consists of a free setting of catalogue poetry (usually humorous lists of loosely related items).
  • In a successive quodlibet, one voice has short musical quotations and textual quotations while the other voices provide homophonic accompaniment.
  • In a simultaneous quodlibet, two or more pre-existing melodies are combined.[1] The simultaneous quodlibet may be considered a historical antecedent to the modern-day musical mashup.


  • History 1
    • Renaissance 1.1
    • 19th century to today 1.2
  • Variants 2
  • Examples 3
    • Classical music 3.1
    • Popular music 3.2
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6



The origins of the quodlibet can be traced to the 15th century, when the practice of combining folk tunes was popular.[2] Composer Wolfgang Schmeltzl first used the term in a specifically musical context in 1544.[3] An early exponent of the genre was 16th century composer Ludwig Senfl whose ability to juxtapose several pre-existing melodies in a cantus firmus quodlibet resulted in works such as Ach Elselein/Es taget, a piece noted for its symbolism rather than its humor.[3] Even earlier we can find another example in Francisco de Peñalosa's Por las sierras de Madrid, from his Cancionero Musical de Palacio. However, it was Michael Praetorius who, in 1618, provided the first systematic definition of the quodlibet as "a mixture of diverse elements quoted from sacred and secular compositions".[4] During the Renaissance, a composer's ability to juxtapose several pre-existing melodies, such as in the cantus firmus quodlibet, was considered the ultimate mastery of counterpoint.[3]

19th century to today

The quodlibet took on additional functions between the beginning and middle of the 19th century, when it became known as the potpourri and the musical switch. In these forms, the quodlibet would often feature anywhere from six to fifty or more consecutive "quotations"; the distinct incongruity between words and music served as a potent source of parody and entertainment.[5] In the 20th century, the quodlibet remained a genre in which well-known tunes and/or texts were quoted, either simultaneously or in succession, generally for humorous effect.[6]


In the 16th century, an independent variant of the quodlibet named ensalada developed in Spain.


Classical music

Popular music

See also


  1. ^ Stanley Sadie and Alison Latham (Eds.), "Quodlibet," The Norton/Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music (New York: W.W. Norton, 1988), p. 608.
  2. ^ Vincent J. Picerno, "Quodlibet" in Dictionary of Musical Terms (Brooklyn, New York: Haskell House Publishers, 1976), p. 304.
  3. ^ a b c Maria Rika Maniates with Peter Branscombe/Richard Freedman, "Quodlibet," 2007, Grove Music Online, Online (December 18, 2007).
  4. ^ In book 3 of his Syntagma musicum.
  5. ^ Maria Rika Maniates with Peter Branscombe/Richard Freedman, "Quodlibet," 2007, Grove Music Online, Online (December 19, 2007).
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b bopuc/weblog: 1955, Glenn Gould remixes live, on piano
  8. ^ Notes on "I've Got A Feeling" by Alan W. Pollack

External links

  • The dictionary definition of at Wiktionary
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