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Classical Notes

What does a medieval music technique have to do with Lorde's high school band?

Posted at 12:22 PM on August 7, 2014 by Jay Gabler
Filed under: Fun finds

Pop music fans have been buzzing about a recently-discovered album by And They Were Masked, a New Zealand high school band that formerly featured vocals by the young woman who's become known worldwide as Lorde. According to the band's Facebook page, their interests include brapping and hockets. Huh?

Well, brapping is simply riding a motorbike off-road. Hockets, on the other hand, are a musical technique dating back to medieval times. In a hocket, a melody is shared among two or more instruments or voices, which alternate notes. Here's Ensemble Scholastica demonstrating the technique with a 13th century quadruple motet.

"Hocketing" was rediscovered in the 1960s when Wendy Carlos used the technique in her groovy electronic project Switched-On Bach.

Today, the technique is used by musicians across a range of disciplines. Here, indie-rock band the Dirty Projectors demonstrate hocketing, as it's used in their music, at the Walker Art Center in 2009. ("They did it in 13th century, like, monk music.")

Good luck finding hockets in the music of And They Were Masked — but it's good luck for all of us that they've drawn our attention to a clever musical technique that's been making melodies more memorable for the past several centuries.