John Dunstable (or Dunstaple) was an English composer who lived from about 1390 to 1453 and has about 60 surviving
022120 DunstableJohn Veni Sancte Spiritus-0

022120 DunstableJohn Veni Sancte Spiritus-0

works. Dunstable spent time in France and Burgundy in the service of John of Lancaster, the Duke of Bedford


Veni , Sancte Spiritus is an isorhythmic motet for four voices.The addition of the contratenor provides a vocal line beneath the isorhythm in the tenor voice. Also in this work, musica ficta is still present as well as modal   elements such as a Lydian fourth. 

Perfect intervals still appear at cadences even though the English characteristic of 3rds and 6ths occur harmonically during much of the piece as well as at the beginning of some phrases.


Comparing this work to Dunstable's Agnus Dei the first noticeable difference is the use of three voices, while still incorperating the contratenor. Also the Agnus Dei belongs in the larger Missa du gaudiorum premia, as well as both pieces are in Latin.

The Agnus Dei begins with a solo from the tenor part before the other two voices come in on perfect intervals. In Veni , Sancte Spiritus, after the initial octave many thirds and sixths are used immediatley. That is not to say that the Agnus Dei uses a different type of harmonic language. In the Agnus Dei the tenor is also used initially as a drone.


I chose this work for a few reasons. The smoother voice leading made the piece interestng to listen to and rather pleasent. Also, the appearance of triadic leaps were interesting as they help create a tonal center that starts to utilize functional harmony to some extent during this quasi-modal work. (mn. 13 - 18 of the video)

Works CitedEdit

"0221120DunstableJohn Veni Sancte Spiritus" YouTube video, 6:24. Posted by "Pattaforma Didattica Pusc," upload June 1, 2012.

Hoppin, Richard H. Medieval Music (The Norton Introduction to Music History) New York : W.W. Norton, 1978. pg 521-522

Keillor, John. "Veni Sancte Spiritus, isorhythmic motet for 4 voices, MB 32 - John Dunstable | Details, Parts / Movements and Recordings." AllMusic. Accessed February 3, 2014.

Dunstaple. John Agnus Dei. Edited by Rudolf von Ficker Vienna: Österreichischer Bundesverlag, 1924. File:IMSLP43703-PMLP94076-Dunstaple Agnus(1).pdf