Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Rusty Jay


Modes in the Renaissance era were vital to understand the inner workings of a piece. Modal theory implies every Renaissance composition should have a distinct mode in which it belongs. The mode of any piece from this era is theoretically obvious by the first or last note of the piece as well as the range given, but researchers have argued the validity of this claim. Complications arise in the case of pieces with two or more voices. Polyphonic music causes uncertainty regarding the method of identifying the mode of a piece. This paper will look deeply at the Missa Papae Marcelli by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina in an attempt to decipher the process used to find the mode in polyphonic music. The Missa Papae Marcelli is a work scored for six independent voices, with some movements being reduced to only four voices. Analysis of this piece will be done to prove that a mode can be established in polyphonic works, and to explain the validity of modal theory in deeply complex, polyphonic musical structures.

Included in

Music Theory Commons