A quodlibet is a piece of music combining several different melodies, usually popular tunes, in counterpoint and often a light-hearted, humorous manner. The term is Latin, meaning "whatever" or literally, "what pleases." There are three main types of quodlibet:
* A catalogue quodlibet consists of a free setting of catalogue poetry (usually humorous lists of loosely related items).
* In a successive quodlibet, one voice has short musical and textual quotations while the other voices provide homophonic accompaniment. The simultaneous quodlibet may be considered a historical antecedent to the modern-day musical mashup.
* In a simultaneous quodlibet, two or more pre-existing melodies are combined. [Stanley Sadie and Alison Latham (Eds.), "Quodlibet," "The Norton/Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music" (New York: W.W. Norton, 1988), p. 608.]



The origins of the quodlibet can be traced to the 15th century, when the practice of combining folk tunes was popular. [Vincent J. Picerno, "Quodlibet," "Dictionary of Musical Terms" (Brooklyn, NY: Haskell House Publishers, 1976), p. 304.] Composer Wolfgang Schmeltzl first used the term in a specifically musical context in 1544.Maria Rika Maniates with Peter Branscombe/Richard Freedman, "Quodlibet," 2007, "Grove Music Online," Online (December 18 2007).] An early exponent of the genre was 16th century composer Ludwig Senfl whose ability to juxtapose several pre-existing melodies in a cantus firmus quodlibet resulted in works such as "Ach Elselein/Es taget", a piece noted for its symbolism rather than its humor.. Even earlier we can find another example in Francisco de Peñalosa's "Por las sierras de Madrid", from his "Cancionero musical de palacio". However, it was Praetorius who, in 1618, provided the first systematic definition of the quodlibet as "a mixture of diverse elements quoted from sacred and secular compositions".Fact|date=July 2008 [In book 3 of his "Syntagma musicum."] During the Renaissance, a composer's ability to juxtapose several pre-existing melodies, such as in the cantus firmus quodlibet, was considered the ultimate mastery of counterpoint.

19th century to today

The quodlibet took on additional functions between the beginning and middle of the 19th Century, when it became known as the potpourri and the musical switch. In these forms, the quodlibet would often feature anywhere from six to fifty or more consecutive "quotations;" the distinct incongruity between words and music served as a potent source of parody and entertainment. [Maria Rika Maniates with Peter Branscombe/Richard Freedman, "Quodlibet," 2007, "Grove Music Online," Online (December 19 2007).] In the 20th Century, the quodlibet remained a genre in which well-known tunes and/or texts were quoted, either simultaneously or in succession, generally for humorous effect. [cite encyclopedia | last = Latham | first = Alison | authorlink = | coauthors = | editor = Alison Latham | encyclopedia = The Oxford Companion to Music | title = Quodlibet | url = | accessdate = | accessyear = | accessmonth = | edition = | date = 2002 | year = | month = | publisher = Oxford University Press | volume = | location = London | id = |isbn=0198662122 |oclc=59376677 | doi = | pages = 1022 | quote = ]


In the 16th century, an independent variant of the quodlibet named "ensalada" developed in Spain, and the "fricassée" likewise in France.

The word also refers to a mode of academic debate or oral examination (usually theological) in which any question could be posed extemporaneously. "Quodlibet" debates were popular in Western culture through the thirteenth century and are still in use today in Tibetan Buddhist theological training.


In the Classical repertoire

*A quodlibet is at the end of Bach's "Goldberg Variations."
*"Gallimathias Musicum", a 17 part quodlibet composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at the age of ten.
*The masses of Jacob Obrecht, which sometimes combine popular tunes, plainsong and original music.
*Bach's "Wedding Quodlibet" or "Quodlibet", which is not a quodlibet by the above definition but a ten-minute procession of nonsense, jokes, puns, obscure cultural references, word games, and parody of other songs. At times, the music imitates a chaconne and a fugue while deliberately obscuring the counterpoint. It is unlike any of Bach's other works, and a few scholars doubt its authenticity.

Modern examples

*"Quodlibet on Welsh Nursery Rhymes" by Welsh composer Alun Hoddinott.
*The Grateful Dead's medley "The Other One" includes the song, "Quodlibet for Tenderfeet".
*Peter Schickele's "Quodlibet" for Small Orchestra and "Unbegun Symphony".
*Pianist Glenn Gould improvised a quodlibet including "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Save the King". [ [http://bopuc.levendis.com/weblog/archives/-2005/10/10/1955_glenn_gould_remixes_live_on_piano.php bopuc/weblog: 1955, Glenn Gould remixes live, on piano ] ] According to his account, Gould came up with this Quodlibet while taking a bath.Fact|date=July 2008
*At the end of "", a quodlibet containing Padmé's funeral theme and the Imperial March can be heard as Darth Vader and the Emperor look out at the Death Star under construction.


See also

* Mashup (music)
* Musical Parody
* Potpourri (music)
* Medley (music)

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  • Quodlĭbet — (lat.), 1) was beliebt; 2) eine Verbindung mannigfaltiger kleiner Dinge, z.B. Gemälde, zu einem malerischen Ganzen scherzhafter Gattung, deren Wirkung vornehmlich auf dem Contrast beruhet; auch ein Gedicht od. Musikstück in dieser Art, in welchem …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Quodlĭbet — (v. lat. quod libet, »was beliebt«), ordnungslose Zusammenstellung verschiedener Gegenstände, namentlich ein Gemälde, in dem die heterogensten Dinge zu einem malerischen Ganzen scherzhafter Gattung zusammengestellt sind; ein aus 13 verschiedenen… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

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  • Quodlibet — Quodlibet,das:⇨Allerlei …   Das Wörterbuch der Synonyme

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