In music, hocket is the rhythmic linear technique using the alternation of notes, pitches, or chords. In medieval practice of hocket, a single melody is shared between two (or occasionally more) voices such that alternately one voice sounds while the other rests.


In European music, hocket was used primarily in vocal music of the 13th and early 14th centuries. It was a predominant characteristic of music of the Notre Dame school, during the ars antiqua, in which it was found in sacred vocal music. In the 14th century, the device was most often found in secular vocal music.

Example of hocket (In seculum d'Amiens longum), French, late 13th century. Observe the quick alternation of sung notes and rests between the upper two voices. While this example is textless, the hocket was usually done on a vowel sound.

The term originated in reference to medieval French motets and was revived in 1968 when Wendy Carlos used the technique in her groundbreaking Switched-On Bach.[1] Since she had to painstakingly assemble Bach's melodies note-by-note anyway, she discovered that altering the voice, the synthesizer patch, every phrase or two helped keep the music sounding alive.

The technique remains in common use in contemporary music (Louis Andriessen's Hoketus), popular music (funk, stereo panning, the work of Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew in King Crimson), Indonesian gamelan music (interlocking patterns shared between two instruments—called imbal in Java and Kotekan in Bali), Andean siku (panpipe) music (two pipe sets sharing the full number of pitches), handbell music (tunes being distributed between two or more players), Rara street processions in Haiti, as well as in the Gaga in the Dominican Republic and many African cultures such as the Ba-Benzélé (featured on Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man," see Pygmy music), Mbuti, Basarwa (Khoisan), the Gumuz tribe from the Blue Nile Province (Sudan), and Gogo (Tanzania). It is also evident in drum and bugle corps drumline music, colloquially known as "split parts" or simply "splits."

The group Dirty Projectors uses hocketing as a very prominent element of their music, with instruments as well as vocals. The composer Dave Longstreth has expressed his interest in the medieval origins of the technique.[2]


The term comes from the French word hoquet (in Old French also hocquet, hoket, or ocquet) meaning "a shock, sudden interruption, hitch, hiccup,"[3] and similar onomatopeic words in Celtic, Breton, Dutch and other languages. The words were Latinized as hoquetus, (h)oketus, and (h)ochetus. Earlier etymologies tried to show derivation from Arabic, which are no longer favored.[4]

See also


  1. http://www.wendycarlos.com/moog/
  2. Lopez, Frances Michel. "Q&A: Dave Longstreth of Dirty Projectors sure does like Wikipedia". Phoenix New Times. Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
  3. The Oxford English Dictionary defines Hocket thus: “(in medieval music) an interruption of a voice-part (usually of two or more parts alternately) by rests, so as to produce a broken or spasmodic effect; used as a contrapuntal device.”
  4. Ernest H. Sanders. "Hocket". In L. Root, Deane. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. (subscription required)


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