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Parody mass

A parody mass is a mass that uses a piece of secular music, a fragment of a motet or chanson as part of its melodic material.

The parody mass was a very popular model during the Renaissance: Palestrina alone wrote some 50-odd examples, and by the first half of the 16th century this style was the dominant form. The Council of Trent banned the parody mass (and the use of secular material in masses), but without much lasting effect. Composers kept on using the motets and chansons, but kept up appearances by not naming the secular song in the title of the Mass. Instead, they frequently designated their Masses as Missa sine nomine, a "Mass without a name," and invited the listener to figure out what secular music was incorporated into it.

In its strictest definition, the term parody mass only applies to masses where a polyphonic fragment is used. However, some early parody masses incorporated only one voice of the polyphonic fragment, making it difficult distinguish this type of mass from the cantus firmus mass. Other parody techniques include adding or removing voices from the original piece, adding fragments of new material, or only using the fragment at the beginning of every part of the mass.

Some examples of parody masses include two ''L'Homme armé" masses by Josquin des Prez (at least 30 masses based on this song are known), and The Western Wind Mass by Taverner and Sheppard (among others).