Sacred music of the 15th century is often technically and conceptually demanding. At the same time, or perhaps because of it, it has recently become a point of reference for the avant-garde: Many influential composers of the 20th century cited this tradition as one of their sources of inspiration and literally shaped the image of a golden age of intellectually and aesthetically high-quality music. It is only in the last few decades that the aesthetic potential of these works has been documented in recordings of historical performance practice and made accessible to a wider public, so that today the musical achievements of this tradition stand on an equal footing with the painting of a van Eyck or van der Weyden and the Burgundian sculpture of Claus Sluter.
An indication of the creative freedom and high degree of self-determination of musical culture is provided by the artistic ‘discourses’ between the works, in which one composer reacts to the ideas, forms, and achievements of another, openly quotes, paraphrases, refers to them associatively, or strives to partially surpass them. In the following exposition, an overview of various procedures of musical imitation, citation, association, and even stylistic parodies will be presented. In the centre of attention are compositions for mass by Johannes Ockeghem, who with his various procedures significantly influenced the most important composers of the following generation, as well as later works with Ockeghem references around Josquin Desprez, in which quotations and stylistic associations show a creative processing of the source material.