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A motet is a form of short unaccompanied polyphonic choral music, originally to a Latin liturgical or sacred text, that appeared in the thirteenth century as a reaction against the plainsong chant . By the 15th century the motet had settled into a standard form with an increasing number of vocal parts and by the time of Palestrina and Lassus, with the mass, it had become the main liturgical music. Later, it would include settings in the vernacular, as were the Bach motets written for funeral services in the first half of the 18th century.

By this time in England, the motet had been superseded by the anthem (although the interest in things Tudor in the first half of the 20th century would bring about some revival of the form.) In catholic Europe there were only sporadic instances of motet writing in the Classical and Romantic eras. The German Lutheran tradition is mainly represented by the seven motets of Brahms.