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Humanism and the language of music treatises

The Renaissance demand that the learned man should adhere ever more
strictly to classical standards of Latinity imposed on writers about music the
obligation of discussing in the language of one culture the phenomena of
The present study is an attempt to follow the effects of this stylistic
obligation, to which I shall apply the term humanism without regard to the
ethical or political or metaphysical consequences of the New Learning, or
even to the consequences of humanism for musical thought or practice;
rather, I have sought, by surveying a sample of writers from the fourteenth
to the early sixteenth centuries, to explore the extent to which musical
writers attained humanistic norms in overall style, in local syntax, and in
Of the ancient writers who treat of music, the Middle Ages knew only those
who wrote in Latin; of these by far the most important was Boethius, whose
Renaissance Studies Vol. 15 No. 1
2001 The Society for Renaissance Studies, Oxford University Press
I owe thanks to members of the Collegium Musicorum Oxoniense, and to all those who contributed to the
discussion after previous versions of this paper had been read at the International Medieval Congress, Leeds,
14 July 1998, the 65th Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society, Kansas City, MO, 6 November
1999, and at the Seminar in Late-Medieval and Renaissance Music, All Souls College, Oxford, 10 February
2000. Many helpful suggestions were made by the editor of Renaissance Studies and by Professor Jessie Ann
Owens; Bonnie Blackburn gave valuable advice. This article could not have been written without the Thesaurus
Musicarum Latinarum files of the Center for the History of Music Theory and Literature, Indiana University; it
was improved by the fascicles so far published of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences Lexicon Musicum Latinum
Medii Aevi, ed. Michael Bernhard (Munich, 1992), hereafter LmL.
On the general question of Renaissance classicism, see now Jozef IJsewijn, Companion to Neo-Latin Studies,
2nd edn (2 vols, Leuven, 19908), II, 377419 and literature there cited. For the dates of musical authors cited
below see Table 1, for brief definitions of technical terms Table 2, for pitch-notation Table 3.
See e.g. Edward E. Lowinsky, Music in the culture of the Renaissance, Music of the Renaissance as
viewed by Renaissance musicians, Humanism in the music of the Renaissance, in id., Music in the Culture of
the Renaissance and Other Essays, ed. Bonnie J. Blackburn (2 vols, Chicago, 1989), I, 1939, 87105, 154218;
Nino Pirrotta, Music and cultural tendencies in 15th-century Italy, Journal of the American Musicological Society,
19 (1966), 12761; Claude V. Palisca, Humanism in Italian Renaissance Musical Thought (New Haven, 1986); id.,
Boethius in the Renaissance, Aristoxenus redeemed in the Renaissance, in id., Studies in the History of Italian
Music and Music Theory (Oxford, 1994), 16888, 18999; Don Harrn, In Defense of Music: The Case for Music as
Argued by a Singer and Scholar of the Late Fifteenth Century (Lincoln, Nebr., 1989), 5365; James Haar (tr. T. C.
Schmidt), Humanismus, in Ludwig Finscher (ed.), Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 2nd edn, Sachteil, IV
(Kassel, 1996), cols 43954; Laurenz Ltteken, Renaissance, ibid. VIII (Kassel, 1998), cols 14356; Karol
Berger, A Theory of Art (New York, 2000), 12033.
The reader may justly complain that the reform of orthography is not considered; that is because the
authors own spellings have very rarely been recoverable. Except in MS transcriptions, I have followed the
various editions cited.
De Institutione Musica offers a detailed discussion of pitches and intervals as
described by Greek theorists, organized according to tetrachords each
exhibiting the three genera, diatonic, chromatic, and enharmonic of which
the latter two were not used by the Church.
The tetrachords are combined
into double octaves, each of which might start on any of eight pitches; these
double octaves were called modi, differentiated according to their species
the relative placement of intervals within them and the pitches they con-
tained were notated according to the two Greek systems of musical notation:
vocal and instrumental. The intervals between pitches are explained with
the aid of lettered diagrams; the letters are never used as formal note-names,
though they may, as in book 4, chapter 14, function as shorthand references.
Nothing is said about rhythm, not even the little that we find in Greek
and nothing on the composition of actual music, a matter beneath
the authors philosophical concern. Writers on theoretical music, rehashing
Table 1 Post-antique authors and works mentioned (in approximate chronological order)
Hucbald of Saint-Amand c. 850930
Remigius of Auxerre fl. 862c. 900
Guido of Arezzo d. after 1033
Theotger (Theogerus) of Metz c. 10501120
Aribo of Freising fl. 1068 1078
Franco of Cologne fl. 1260? 1280?
Lambertus (quidam Aristoteles) fl. 1270
Jacques de Lige c. 1260?after 1330
Marchetto of Padua fl. 1305 1319
Hugo Spechtsart c. 12851359 1360
Philippe de Vitry 12911361
Johannes Vetulus de Anagnia fl. 1372?
Johannes Ciconia d. 1412
Nicolaus de Buccellanito fl. ?c. 1450
Johannes Tinctoris c. 14351511
Florentius de Faxolis d. 1496
Adam of Fulda c. 14451505
Franchino Gaffori or Gaffurius 14511522
Giovanni Spataro 14581541
Jean Le Munerat c. 1430 14401499
Guillaume Guerson c. 14701503
Paolo Cortesi 14651510
Biagio Rossetti d. after 1547
Johannes Frosch c. 1470after 1532
Henricus Glareanus 14881563
Athanasius Kircher 160180
Mater enim ecclesia de tribus his generibus solum dyatonicum ad omne quod canere velis aptissimum
elegit, aliis reprobatis duobus: Johannes Gallicus, De Ritu Canendi 1.7, ed. E. de Coussemaker, Scriptorum de
Musica Medii Aevi nova series [= CS] (4 vols, Paris, 186476), IV, 306. Tetrachords are regularly presented in
Greek sources as descents: in the diatonic genus, through tone, tone, and semitone; in the chromatic, by minor
third, semitone, semitone; in the enharmonic, by major third, quartertone, quartertone.
For which see Aristoxenus, Elementa Rhythmica, ed. Lionel Pearson (Oxford, 1990).
416 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
Boethius doctrine on intervals and interval species, could use the Greek
names, but from the practical standpoint his treatise was completely useless
for either teaching or explaining the most important music of the Middle
Table 2 Brief definitions of terms used in medieval and Renaissance music
alteration: in perfect mensurations doubling the value of a note (e.g. under perfect tempus, in
the progression breve, semibreve, semibreve, breve, the second semibreve will be twice the
length of the first, unless the semibreves are divided)
ars antiqua/nova: the musical practices respectively of the late thirteenth century and the
fourteenth century in France
ars Gallica/ars Italica: the musical practices respectively of France and Italy
diapente: the interval of a perfect fifth
diatessaron: the interval of a perfect fourth
division: separation by a dot of notes that would otherwise be taken together (e.g. in the
progression breve, semibreve, dot, semibreve, breve under perfect tempus the two
semibreves will each imperfect the adjacent breve)
hexachord: ascending sequence of six notes, with a semitone between the third and fourth
imperfect (adjective): containing two of the next lower note-value
imperfect (verb): shorten a note by one-third of its value
larga: another name for the maxima
ligature: a group of notes written as a combined character (often markedly different in
appearance from the same notes written separately)
maxima: a note worth two, later also three, longs
mensuration: the underlying relation between each note-value and that below it
mode: (i) in Boethian theory, an octave species, later loosely equated with a psalm-tone; (ii) in
Notre-Dame polyphony, a rhythmical pattern; (iii) in mensural music, the relation of the
long to the breve, either 3:1 (perfect) or 2:1 (imperfect); sometimes distinguished as minor
mode from that between the maxima and the long (major node)
musica ficta: notes not pertaining to the hexachord; sometimes extended to b
musica practica/speculativa: respectively (exposition of) actual musical practice and of theory
ultimately based on Boethius
organum: the addition to plainchant of a second voice singing a melody of its own, the earliest
form of Western polyphony.
perfect (adjective): containing three of the next lower note-value
perfect (verb): cause a note to be perfect
perfectio: (among other meanings) a vertical stroke added to the last note of a ligature
indicating that it is a long
plica: ornamentation by means of a passing note
prolation: the relation between semibreve and minim, either 3:1 (major) or 2:1 (minor)
proportion: the shortening (or less often lengthening) of note-values with respect to the basic
proprietas: a vertical stroke added to the first note of a ligature indicating that it is a breve; in
Marchetto also used for perfectio
reduction: the grouping together of notes, not necessarily contiguous, to form a perfect value,
often involving imperfection of a longer note
solmization: the use of conventional syllables to designate pitches by their place in the
hexachord, most frequently ut re mi fa sol la
tempus: the relation between breve and semibreve, either 3:1 (perfect) or 2:1 (imperfect)
Humanism and the language of music treatises 417
Ages, ecclesiastical plainchant. Even when the latter had been subjected to a
modal thory, it was not his; even when, by imaginative reinterpretation, the
church modes received Boethian names, they were wrong; for example the
name Dorian, anciently the interval species from E to e (ee), was given to
that from D to d (dd).
In the one matter for which Boethius treatise might have served, namely
notation, it proved too complex for its readers understanding; indeed, nota-
tion was on the point of being forgotten altogether. Isidore of Seville a
century later could say that sounds meaning musical sounds could not be
written down,
and when notation was rediscovered, it was realized (despite
Table 3 Pitch names and notations
Greek Odonian Guidonian Helmholtzian
ee ee la ee
dd dd la sol dd
cc cc sol fa cc
bb bb mi bn
bb bb fa bb
nete hyperbolaion aa aa la mi re a
paranete hyperbolaion g g sol re ut g
trite hyperbolaion f f fa ut f
nete diezeugmenon e e la mi e
paranete diezeugmenon d d la sol re d
trite diezeugmenon c c sol fa ut c
paramese b b mi bn
trite synemmenon b b fa bb
mese a a la mi re a
lichanos meson G G sol re ut g
parhypate meson F F fa ut f
hypate meson E E la mi e
lichanos hypaton D D sol re d
parhypate hypaton C C fa ut c
hypate hypaton B B mi grave B
proslambanomenos A A re grave A
ut G
(retropolis) F
The Greek names are those taken over by medieval writers, who assume the diatonic genus. The
Odonian notation is associated (incorrectly) with Abbot Odo of Arezzo (late tenth century); the
traditional ascription to Guido of the solmization syllables exceeds the evidence. Retropolis is a
late addition to the scheme, nor do all writers recognize ee. The notes are divided into three
groups, called graves, acutae, and superacutae, beginning at , A (or G), and aa respectively.
I use roman letters for the Odonian notation, AG ag aaee, when not combined with solmization
syllables, and italic for the modern Helmholtzian (in which is G and ee e); I also use roman capitals for
pitch-classes, e.g. Bb. See Table 3.
Etymologiae 3.15.2: nisi enim ab homine memoria teneantur soni, pereunt, quia scribi non possunt.
418 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
Hucbalds attempts at adapting Boethian symbols) on quite different
principles. Even if Boethius suggested the use of letters, the letters did not
correspond to his, and his Greek pitch-names gave place to letters extended
by syllables relating to an organization by hexachords. His interval names
such as diatessaron and diapente survived longer against the challenge of the
simpler system, based on ordinal numbers such as quarta and quinta with
chorda understood,
that modern languages still use in loan or in translation,
since use of the Greek terms displayed the writers education without
impairing the readers comprehension; but neither De Institutione Musica
nor the other late Latin authorities offered any model for discussing even the
simplest organum, let alone a four-voice motet, and a text in which neither
longus nor brevis is ever applied to a sound (or even a syllable) afforded
no precedent for treating of modal rhythm, never mind the imperfections,
alterations, and reductions of the fully developed mensural system.
appropriate language had to be devised from scratch, and reinvented as
music itself evolved.
By the fourteenth century, something approaching a standard vocabulary
existed in France and Flanders: we may compare an extract from a treatise
reproducing the ars nova notational teachings ascribed to Philippe de Vitry,
and one from another, by Jacques de Lige, attacking them from the
standpoint of the thirteenth-century ars antiqua. The former is explaining
the use of dots after notes, either to perfect or to divide them:
Et nota quod duplex est punctus de quo plurimum supradixi: est punctus
perfectionis, qui semper perficit longam in utroque modo, et brevem in
utroque tempore, et semibrevem in utraque prolatione. Est autem aliquis
punctus divisionis, et ille punctus imperficit longam dividendo breves, et
imperficit brevem dividendo <semibreves, et imperficit semibrevem
See e.g. Adalboldi episcopi Ultraiectensis Epistola cum tractatu de musica instrumentali humanaque ac mundana,
ed. Joseph Smits van Waesberghe (Divitiae musicae artis, A/II; Buren, 1981, 19): Constat diatessaron constare
ex duobus tonis et semitonio. Addatur ergo tribus praeinventis chordis chorda quarta, quae faciat diatessaron
ad primam. Erit ergo semitonium inter tertiam et quartam. The Greek name similarly denotes concord across
four (strings), o (), and likewise o for the fifth and o (across all) for the
octave; but to medieval Western readers they were arbitrary names.
To be sure, the deficiency could be rectified in retrospect. Tonaries, showing the beginnings of chant
according to the ecclesiastical modes, were added in some MSS; see Glossa Maior in Institutionem Musicam
Boethii, ed. Michael Bernhard and Calvin M. Bower (Munich, 1996), III, 38697. Gonzalo Martnez de Bizcargui,
Arte de Canto Llano (Zaragoza, 1538), sig. a4
alleges that a MS of Boethius treats of vocibus ordinatis per
manuum iuncturas per litteras alphabeti gradibus distinctis; this passage comes from Johannes de Muris,
Notitia Artis Musicae, 1.5, ed. Ulrich Michels (Corpus scriptorum de musica [= CSM], 17; [Rome]: American
Institute of Musicology [= AIM], 1972), 64 (cf. M. Gerbert, Scriptores ecclesiastici de musica [= GS] (3 vols, Sankt
Blasien, 1784; facs. Milan, 1931), III, 314b). Other polymaths might also benefit: Lambertus Tractatus de Musica
was bestowed on quidam Aristoteles (see CS I, 251a281b), but printed with Bedes works by Johannes
Heerwagen (Basel, 1653) along with a Musica theorica comprising extracts from the Glossa Maior on Boethius;
both were reproduced by J.-P. Migne in Patrologia Latina 90, cols 90938.
Humanism and the language of music treatises 419
dividendo> minimas. Unde videndum est quomodo cognoscitur punctus
ille divisionis a puncto perfectionis, cum unus habeat imperficere figuras,
et alius perficere, sicut dixi.
Jacques de Lige disapproves of imperfection by minim or semibreve:
Ex dictis patet responsio ad rationem primae conclusionis ubi est adver-
tendum quod, etsi illa prima conclusio, quantum ad loquendi modum
intelligendo illam ut dictum est, concedatur tam a Modernis quam ab ali-
quibus Antiquis (dico aliquibus quia illum loquendi modum Aristoteles
non tenuit), alias tamen conclusiones Antiqui non posuerunt, de illis
mentionem non fecerunt ut quod semibrevis brevem imperficiat et
minima semibrevem maiorem, sic de ceteris, quia non est simile de illis ut
de prima, ut ex supradictis patet. Deficiunt enim in illis conditiones quae
dictae sunt requiri ad hoc ut, secundum modum loquendi quicquid sit in
re, una notula aliam imperficiat.
The prose is as thoroughly medieval in its style as in its scholastic reasoning:
we find quod-clauses instead of accusative and infinitive, gerunds with object
instead of gerundives; there is also a greater tendency for verbs to appear in
mid-clause instead of their traditional default position at the end.
But even
if we edited the constructions, and tidied the straggling clauses into the
periodic structure of the Latin classics, we should still be faced with the
vocabulary. To be sure, every art has always had its peculiar jargon: Vitruvius
is aware that architectural vocabulary is not generally understood, and that
musical terminology is difficult for those who have no Greek;
Frontinus De
Aquae Ductu Urbis Romae shows specialized uses of such words as modulus
(adjutage) and castellum (reservoir); his contemporary, the author of De
Munitione Castrorum, abounds in terms incomprehensible to those not
versed in the mysteries of castrametation, however well they know the
language of Roman warfare.
We ought, therefore, not to complain if
Ars perfecta in musica Magistri Philippoti de Vitriaco, CS III, 32b; my supplement remedies an obvious
saut du mme au mme. The note-values considered here, in descending order, are long, breve, semibreve, and
minim; each of the first three is equivalent, when perfect, to three of the next shorter note, when imperfect, to
two; the relation of long to breve is known as mode, that of breve to semibreve as tempus, that of semibreve to
minim as prolation. Mode and tempus may be perfect or imperfect, and prolation major or minor, according
to whether the normative relation is triple or duple; but in the duple mensurations an individual note may be
perfected (later theorists would have said augmented) by a following dot, as still in modern notation; in the
triple mensurations, in which the longer note followed by the shorter is generally imperfected, a dot may be
written after the longer note to show that it remains perfect. On the other hand, in a triple relation, a dot may
be written between two of the shorter notes following the longer to show that the first of them imperfects the
longer note.
Jacques of Lige, Speculum Musicae, ed. Roger Bragard (CSM 3/7; AIM 1973), VII, 83. For Aristoteles see
n. 9.
This vernacularism had recently infected Latin on the pretext of being more natural: see Paul Saenger,
Spaces between Words: The Origins of Silent Reading (Stanford, 1997), 2534.
De Architectura 5 pr. 2; 5.4.1. Architectural language required a knowledge of Greek no less.
Thus at 40: Et in retentura qui solent et quinquagenis hominibus per strigas strictius seu laxius tendere,
quoniam saepe numeros euenit commutari, tensuram amplius efficiant quam strigae in eandem pedaturam
420 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
substantivized longa and brevis, used classically of syllables, are extended to
notes; we may likewise accept minima as a specific use of a basic word. But
nowhere in respectable Latin does one find semibrevis;
and although
abstracts such as imperfectio, with privative in and deverbative suffixes, are
found in later Latin,
the verb imperficere, to render imperfect, apparently
invented by Franco of Cologne,
and said of the note that takes its own
value out of another, has no business to exist at all. One would expect imper-
fectum facere or reddere, at the worst imperfectare; but imperficere is used, and
even spread to non-musical contexts.
This linguistic weed would prove
peculiarly resistant to Renaissance hoes.
Italian theory and practice of the early Trecento the Ars Italica still show
a marked difference from the Ars Gallica; the language too is different, but
somewhat less so than the substance. Marchetto of Padua though expound-
ing relations between note-lengths quite unlike those used in France still
speaks of breves and semibreves, perfection and imperfection. On the other
hand, in discussing the vertical stroke added to the first or last note of a
ligature to change its value, he calls it proprietas whether it is attached to the
first note or the last, cases distinguished in France as proprietas and perfectio
Hiis habitis formamus talem rationem: latus dextrum est perfectius quam
sinistrum, ut probatum est. Sed proprietas addita notae additur sibi per
dextrum et sinistrum, ut patet ad sensum. Ergo proprietas addita notae ex
parte dextra perficiet ipsam, ex parte vero sinistra imperficiet ipsam.
Perficere autem notam est ipsam prolongare, imperficere vero est ipsam
abbreviare. Bene ergo dixerunt praedicti doctores, scilicet quod proprietas
addita notae ex latere dextro inferius ipsam perficit (superius vero a latere
dextro in modo proferendi); a parte vero sinistra inferius imperficit ipsam,
faciendo eam brevem, in superius vero, semibrevem.
incurrent; note, even in the dicendi genus tenue of the technical handbook, the periodic sentence structure. For
a French translation of this work, with commentary, see Maurice Lenoirs Bud edition, Pseudo-Hygin: Des
fortifications du camp (Paris, 1979).
If one did, it ought to mean halfway to being short, and therefore not so short as brevis; or if, once brevis
had been substantivized, semibrevis might reasonably mean half a breve, it ought not as it often does to
denote some other fraction. See Wolf Frobenius, Handwrterbuch der musikalischen Terminologie, ed. Hans
Heinrich Eggebrecht (Wiesbaden, 1971), s.v. Semibrevis. The comparative brevior and superlative brevissima
were used for various fractions of the breve: see LmL, s.vv.
See in general Edward Wlff lin, Substantiva mit in privativum. Ein Beitrag zur Kenntniss der Africitas,
Archiv fr lateinische Lexikographie und Grammatik, 4 (1887), 40012. The subtitle refers to the then fashionable
theory of African Latinity.
Ars Cantus Mensurabilis, ed. Gilbert Reaney and Andr Gilles (CSM 18; AIM 1974), 32, 36, 49.
The first non-musical example in the British Academy Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources
(1997), V, 1248 is from Bradwardines De Causa Dei of 1344; that in the Lexicon Latinitatis Neerlandicae Medii
Aevi (Leiden, 1990), IV, 2351 from Marsilius van Inghen (d. 1396).
Marchetto of Padua, Pomerium 1.1.2, ed. Giuseppe Vecchi (CSM 6; AIM 1961), 52. Hiis habitis refers to
medical and philosophical considerations concerning the perfection of the right side and the imperfection of
the left. In the parenthesis (superius . . . proferendi) the verb imperficit appears to be missing; the upstroke
on the right imperfects the note (pp. 523), causing it to be rendered as a plica (p. 49).
Humanism and the language of music treatises 421
Here we may note the ref lexive sibi and the intensive ipsam used as plain
anaphoric pronouns.
Later in the century, as French inf luence increased, Johannes Vetulus de
Anagnia states:
. . . et tunc praecedens brevis per virtutem istius signi perfectionis im-
perficere non potest sequentem longam, et longa tria tempora continens
est perfecta. Et praefata brevis praecedens vel valor refertur ad aliquam
aliam notam vel valorem cum qua possit facere perfectionem, quia sola
non debet manere, tamen non ad longam punctatam. Et si perfectio non
inveniretur nisi per errorem, debet reduci secundum modum imperfec-
tum. Nota quod de valore semibrevium ligatarum et non ligatarum idem
est iudicium.
Est enim notandum quod de largis, longis, brevibus et semibrevibus est
idem iudicium. Et sicut per illum puntectum perfectionis perficitur longa,
ita per eum perficitur larga, etiam brevis et semibrevis, quia potestatem
habet addendi et dividendi ut inferius patebit. Et sicut brevis imperficit
longam, ita longa imperficit largam, semibrevis brevem et minima
Since Cato the Censor had called skirmishes (pugnae) punctatoriolae, little
stabbing (fights),
we may wink at punctatam;
but there is no excuse for
puntectum, a superficial Latinization of puntetto, instead of Apuleius
punctulum or Solinus punctillum.
The moods and tenses of the conditional
sentence are wrong: the imperfect subjunctive inveniretur properly means if
perfection were purely an error, which it is not, which would entail a main
verb debebat.
The terminology of fourteenth-century treatises was not entirely uniform
(or perspicuous);
nor was there absent an urge to display more Greek than
one knew, as when Marchetto calls the intervals of sixth and seventh the
hexad and the heptad.
Neverthless, theorists are wrestling with the Latin of
their own day, rather than looking back to the Latin of the past. Yet it was
precisely a looking back to the Latin of the past in revulsion from that of the
present that characterized the humanist revolution already under way in Italy.
Johannes Vetulus de Anagnia, Liber de Musica, ed. Frederick Hammond (CSM 27; AIM 1977), 71.
M. Porci Catonis Orationum reliquiae, ed. Maria Teresa Sblendorio Cugusi (Turin etc., 1982), fr. 102 (p. 90,
with commentary p. 294).
Cf. the punctator who noted absences from choir, anglicized at Christ Church, Oxford, as prickbill.
Apuleius, Metamorphoses 5.12.6, 6.21.3; Solinus, Collectanea 15.28 (Marchetto has pontellus). The <ct> of
puntectum is of course a reverse spelling for /tt/.
More elegant than deberet; for the indicative of modal verbs in counterfactual sentences, see Raphael
Khner and Carl Stegmann, Ausfhrliche Grammatik der lateinischen Sprache: Satzlehre, 3rd edn rev. Andreas
Thierfelder (Leverkusen, 1955), I, 1734, and cf. older Italian doveva.
My account, which of course is over-simplified, completely ignores English theory, since genuine
humanism plays no part in it, though pretentiousness does; see Ronald Woodley, John Tucke: A Case Study in
Early Tudor Music Theory (Oxford, 1993).
Marchetto, Lucidarium 9.1.3, 14, ed. Herlinger, 308, 312.
422 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
Johannes Ciconia, who after receiving his practical grounding in music at
Lige, had like many other northern musicians made his career in Italy,
proved himself receptive to Italian cultural developments. He was associated
with a circle of Veneto humanists by no means indifferent to music as
actually written and performed, not merely as an intellectual theory or a
liberal art.
In return he, the practical musician, represents himself in his
Nova Musica, completed at Padua in the first decade of the fifteenth century,
as the reviver and reformer of ancient theory.
He makes disobliging
references to the followers of Guido,
and finds analogies between music
and those eminently humanistic disciplines, grammar and dialectic.
most remarkable gesture towards humanism, however, is the importation of
Greek pitch-names (albeit undeclined) from musica speculativa into a
discussion of plainchant, already marked by adoption of Marchettos interval
names and an incautious venture into music history:
Reliquos vero, id est diapente minorem, tritonum, exaden minorem,
exaden maiorem, et eptaden, eodemmodo auctores dederunt in regulis et
cantibus quemadmodum et ceteros de quibus supra retulimus. Nam
diapente minor in Musica sillabarum datur in regulis.
Bernardus vero
constituit tritonum et exaden minorem et exaden maiorem.
autem et Remigius invenerunt eptaden.
Denique ut non repudientur a
minus capacibus neque a Guidonistis, qui dicunt coniunctiones vocum
solummodo sex modis fieri, ideo notificemus in quibus cantibus
reperiantur. Igitur de pluribus pauca apponam. Diapente minor est in
antiphona Isti sunt sancti qui habebant loricas in eo loco et clamabant voce
magna dicentes Sanctus ut hypate meson ad trite synemenon.
Margaret Bent, Music and the early Veneto humanists, Proceedings of the British Academy, 101: 1998
Lectures and Memoirs (London, 1999), 10130. The Veneto humanists were not alone: see Giovanni Zanovello,
Les Intellectuels f lorentins et la polyphonie liturgique, in Perrine Galand-Hallyn and Fernand Hallyn (eds),
Potiques de la Renaissance (Geneva, 2001), 62538, 667731, esp. 6316.
Johannes Ciconia, prologue to Nova musica, ed. Oliver B. Ellsworth (Greek and Latin Music Theory, 9;
Lincoln, Nebr., 1993), 52.2830.
For example Nova musica 1.20 (p. 88.56): Sic itaque omnis Guidonistarum magis ignorantia convincitur
Boetii prudentia. Marchetto had allowed himself a scandalous reference to ignorantia Guidonis at Lucidarium
9.1.12, ed. Jan W. Herlinger (Chicago, 1985), 312 (contrast bene Guido 9.1.62, p. 332), but he was a
progressive, not a revivalist. Ciconia attacks only the followers and cites Guido himself as an authority. The one
exception is at 2.17 (284.21286.5), where he reforms his teaching by adding low B
, but without any personal
Prologue, p. 52.302.
Ellsworth refers to Ps.-Odo, De Musica, GS I, 270a, but there is no reference to a diminished fifth there;
nor does the author recognize such an interval, for on the next page he asserts that there is no fifth on low B
(a secunda diapente non invenitur).
Berno, Prologus, GS II, 64ab (cit. Ellsworth). The accusative of hexas should of course be hexada or
Ellsworth cites respectively Boethius, Mus. 1.20, on the (h)eptachordus from hypate to mese, and Remigius,
Commentum in Martianum Capellam 372.11374.11, ed. Cora E. Lutz (2 vols, Leiden, 19625), II, 1913 on
Martianus account of the (h)eptas or number seven, but neither Martianus nor Remigius says a word about
music here.
Nova musica 1.60 (212.19214.9).
Humanism and the language of music treatises 423
The bounds of the interval ebb, in contemporary parlance E la mi grave to b
fa acutum, are stated as hypate meson and trite synemmenon, not as a matter
of theory but in reference to a specific passage in a specific antiphon.
The ancient names suffered from the disadvantage of spanning only two
octaves, excluding the lowest medieval pitch (our G) and the highest four,
bb cc dd ee in superacutis (b c d e). Hence although they are perfectly
adequate for discussing interval species, they cannot be used to the exclusion
of the letter-names. Nevertheless, when Ciconia discusses the division of the
monochord, he uses the letter-names, without the solmization syllables, but
qualified as grave, acutum, superacutum. Now, the Middle Ages had inherited
from Antiquity the bb that the Greeks called , but renamed
it b fa, b rotundum, or b molle, in contradistinction to b mi, b quadrum, or b
durum, meaning or b. Ciconia, however, designates it b synemenon,
combining the modern letter with the ancient tetrachord. The same
distinction obtained an octave higher in the superacutae, which were normally
represented by doubling the letter; Ciconia also doubles the b, but calls it
synemenon superacutum.
He was not the first to use synemmenon of a Bb
other than that in acutis, for Theotger of Metz some 300 years earlier
and well in advance of his time had admitted it under the name of
synemmenon in gravibus.
Moreover, synemmenon, or in Latin coniuncta,
might be used in general for musica ficta.
However, it fell to the would-be
reviver of ancient music to use the term for a note not only not recognized by
the ancients but lying a semitone outside the Immutable Perfect System.
Although Ciconias Latin has some stylistic pretension, it could no more
have passed for humanistic than the motet-texts that speak in his name.
Nor was his Nova Musica inf luential; the only author who shows any sign of
having read it is Nicolaus de Buccellanito, nicknamed Auritus or Bigears,
who claims to be writing for boys but uses the Greek note-names.
For a
long time writers stuck to the treatise style, at best using classical citations to
put their teaching in a broader context, though in dedications, prefaces, and
epilogues they might demonstrate their literary skills, even as St Luke and
before him the translator of Ben Sira had written his best Greek in his
The antiphon, cited again at 2.28 (296.910) as a cantus prosaicus, has not been identified; it does not
correspond to any of the Isti sunt viri texts in the Corpus Antiphonalium Officii. The allusion is to Rev. 9:9, 17.
Ibid. 1.19 (84.223).
Musica, GS II, 184b. Ciconia too adds inter proslambanomenos et hypate hypaton synememon unum
(2.17; see above, n. 29).
For example Adam of Fulda, Musica 2.11: ibi coniunctarum obviatio est, quod Graeci synemmenon,
nostri vero musicam fictam appellare [lege appellari] voluerunt (GS III, 353a).
The complete range of ancient pitches, notionally equated with the two octaves from A to a.
Edited by M. J. Connolly in The Works of Johannes Ciconia, ed. Margaret Bent and Anne Hallmark (Poly-
phonic Music of the Fourteenth Century, 24; Monaco, 1985), 2206: only no. 19, Ut te per omnes celitus /
Ingens alumnus Padue, in which Ciconias name does not appear, even attempts quantitative metre (the
Ambrosian tetrastich), and that badly.
Introductio Artis Musice, in MS Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, lat. Cl. VIII, 85 (3579), fols 61
424 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
prologue before reverting to biblical jargon in the main text. This is the
practice of another northerner on Italian soil, the great theoretician and
reformer Johannes Tinctoris of Braine-lAlleud, who served King Ferrante
of Naples (Ferdinand I, 145894) in various capacities for some two decades
until c. 1492. Tinctoris was not discreet by nature: the self-confidence with
which in his maturity he would set the leading composers of the age to rights
was manifested in his youth by the peacock Latinity with which he had
registered himself as proctor of the German nation (i.e. Imperial subjects) at
the university of Orlans, in which city he was master of the cathedral
Valvas anno frangentis tipicas M CCCC LXII mensis aprilis die prima,
me Johannem Tinctoris, pangeristarum ymum ast ecclesie sancte Crucis
Aurelianensis choralium pedagogum, quem terra Branie Alodii, Camera-
censis dyocesis ecastor genuit, allubescencia cunctorum elegantis melli-
f lueque nacionis Almanie suppositorum ab exordia dividia ne theotocos
in ecclesia Boni Nuncii celebrata congregacione cuncti haud ignorent
orthodoxorum in procuratorem prelibate fuisse nacionis electum, quo
ritibus anteritatis mis in manus predecessoris solempnia procuratorum
prisca serie nuperorum obtuli juramenta etc.
The pomposity of Tinctoris youthful folly is medieval in spirit, despite such
false classicisms as the female oath ecastor and a haud incorrect in both sense
and syntax;
it provoked marginalia of humanistic allure: Appuleio magis
affectatus et stultior, Apulei asinus sivit docuit rudere, rudit cum Apuleii
asino: ride sesquipedalia verba buttubatte stultiloqui. Parturiunt montes
nascetur ridiculus mus.
See Ronald Woodley, Iohannes Tinctoris: a review of the documentary biographical evidence, Journal of
the American Musicological Society, 34 (1981), 21748 at 243; id., Renaissance music theory as literature: on
reading the Proportionale Musices of Iohannes Tinctoris, Renaissance Studies, 1 (1987), 20920 at 212.
Dated more Gallico = 1 April 1463 modern style.
Cited from Premier Livre des procurateurs de la Nation germanique de lancienne universit dOrlans
14441546, ed. Cornelia M. Ridderikhoff with Hilde De Ridder-Symoens (Leiden, 1971), 2930; the grammar
is as bad as the taste. The normal style for these records, eschewing all f lourish save in praise of the German
nation, may be seen in the preceding proctors entry: Anno Domini M CCCC LXII, quarta die mensis
januarii [= 4 January 1462/3], ego Guilhelmus Colini de Bergis supra Zooman, Leodiensis dyocesis, artium
magister, electus fui in procuratorem venerabilis ac fructifere nationis Alamanie per dominos venerabilis
nationis prenominate nemine contradicente in ecclesia nostre Domine Boni Nuncii juravique juramenta solita
in manu predecessoris mei (ibid. 29). A genuine humanist wrote no less soberly: Anno Domini M CCCC
mensis januarii [14 January 1479/80], ego Johannes Reuchlin Phorcensis ex Alemania alta,
Spirensis diocesis, in legibus in hac alma universitate Aurelianensi baccalarius, fui electus per venerabiles viros
nostre nacionis legittime congregatos loco consueto in procuratorem ejusdem nacionis, juravi solitum
juramentum (ibid. 47).
On ecastor, see Gellius, Noctes Atticae 11.6; the clause ne . . . haud ignorent presumably meant to mean
that none should be unaware of Tinctoris election would in fact say lest all be not ignorant if haud had any
business in a purpose-clause. More typical of the style represented is mis, an extremely rare pre-classical
equivalent of mei as genitive of ego, recorded by Priscian and used by medieval writers (as mei was in Silver
Latin) instead of the possessive meus.
Between the familiar allusions to Horace, Ars poetica 97 and 139, buttubatte [sic] stultiloqui combines
buttabatta, cited by grammarians from Naevius and Plautus in the meaning worthless, with stultiloquus, found
Humanism and the language of music treatises 425
Most hurtful, however, may have been the suggestion that such ignorance
was only to be expected of a musician (musicum plane ingenium id est
indoctum); at all events in Naples, where learning was taken seriously,
Tinctoris showed himself determined to efface such aspersions, taking
inspiration from the preface to Ciceros De Oratore for that to Proportionale
Musices (c. 14734), citing Pliny and alluding to the Sirens song in that to De
Arte Contrapuncti (1477).
Indeed, he required musicians to know Latin as a
precondition for understanding their art; in Proportionale, having berated
various composers for what he considers an error in notating proportions, he
declares, unfortunately unaware that quoniam takes the indicative:
non miror quoniam illos minime litteratos audiverim. Et quis sine litteris
veritatem huius non solum sed cuiusvis scientiae liberalis attingere valebit?
Sed eis fuisse pares in Missis De plus en plus et Lhomme arme Okeghem
et Busnois, quos competenter constat latinitate praeditos, non mediocrem
pectori nostro admirationem incutit.
He cannot mean that educated composers ought to have learnt better
practice from treatises De Musica, for no writer on music theory had
anticipated his doctrine; rather, they ought to have read the treatises De
Arithmetica that would have enabled them to arrive at the truth from first
principles. This he had made clear in the prologue of the same work, where
he praises modern musicians for revolutionizing the art but laments their
incorrect notation:
Quo fit ut hac tempestate facultas nostrae musices tam mirabile susceperit
incrementum quod ars nova esse videatur, cuius, ut ita dicam, novae artis
fons et origo apud Anglicos quorum caput Dunstaple exstitit, fuisse per-
hibetur, et huic contemporanei fuerunt in Gallia Dufay et Binchois, quibus
immediate successerunt moderni Okeghem, Busnoys, Regis et Caron,
omnium quos audiverim in compositione praestantissimi. Nec
eis Anglici
nunc, licet vulgariter iubilare, Gallici vero cantare dicantur,
at Plautus, Persa 514. It is not suggested that Tinctoris saw these comments, or even that they were written in
time for him to see them; rather that this is unlikely to have been his sole lapse of taste, and students are wont
to mock other students to their face.
Woodley, Renaissance music theory; Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Tinctoris on the great composers,
Plainsong and Medieval Music, 5 (1996), 1939.
Johannes Tinctoris, Proportionale Musices, ed. Albert Seay (CSM 22/2a; AIM 1978), 3.3 (p. 49, where
praeditos is misprinted praedictos). In late-imperial and medieval Latin the subjunctive correctly used with
cum is found with other causal conjunctions.
There is a variant Hec, i.e. haec, in these respects, which is not only excessively poetical, but requires the
current English composers (illi) to be as good as their predecessors (eis) and to be composing in new ways while
the French (isti, referring to the Galli of the concessive clause) are stuck in a rut; on the contrary, in the 1470s
Tinctoris would have considered the English to be mere epigones of Dunstaple, and the French to be constantly
innovating. Hence both eis and illi denote the moderni of the preceding sentence, isti their English
contemporaries. As Woodley, Renaissance music theory, 21516 observes, Tinctoris applies here the scheme
of Cicero, De Oratore 1.1216: Athens brought oratory to perfection, but we Romans now excel all the world.
This was to become a commonplace: see Woodley, Renaissance music theory, 21617; Bonnie J.
Blackburn, Music and festivities at the court of Leo X, Early Music History, 11 (1992), 137 at 1417. In the
426 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
conferendi, illi etenim in dies novos cantus novissime inveniunt, ac isti,
quod miserrimi signum est ingenii, una semper et eadem compositione
Sed proch dolor! Non solum eos immo complures alios compositores
famosos quo<s> miror dum tam subtiliter ac ingeniose tum in-
comprehensibili suavitate componunt, proportiones musicas aut penitus
ignorare aut paucas quas noverint perperam signare cognovi. Quod-
quidem ob defectum arithmeticae, sine qua nullus in ipsa musica
praeclarus evadit, contingere non dubito. Ex eius namque visceribus
omnis proportio elicitur.
Mistakes are not hard to find: quod for ut introducing a consecutive clause,
moderni for recentiores, the intrusive conjunction in the antithesis illi . . . ac
and novissime misused for in a highly novel fashion.
Nevertheless, we
are clearly meant to be impressed not only with ut ita dicam apologizing for a
metaphor and the subjunctive construction omnium quos audiverim, which
are found in Cicero, and the tags hac tempestate, fons et origo, proch dolor,
which are not,
but with the overall construction of the sentences.
When writing technically, Tinctoris is utterly unclassical and perfectly
Deinde notandum est quod circa quamlibet proportionem debemus
considerare in quo modo, in quo tempore et in qua prolatione fiat. Nam
quaedam proportiones binariae sunt, ut dupla, quadrupla, etc., quaedam
ternariae, ut tripla, sesquialtera, etc., quaedam utraeque . . . quaedam
neutrae . . . Non tamen naturam quantitatum in quibus fiunt immutare
possunt. Immo qualiscumque proportio sit sive binaria, sive ternaria, sive
utraque, sive neutra, semper notae iuxta perfectionem aut imperfectio-
nem earum per respectum signi modalis, temporalis et prolationalis, sub
quo consistunt computandae sunt, ut patet in sequenti exemplo . . .
Having reached the end, Tinctoris rounds off his treatise with an address to
King Ferrante, informing him with alliteration, and a pun on tinxerit and
context of the sentence as a whole, the point of the concessive clause will have to be something like for all their
showy performances.
Ibid., prol. (p. 10).
The misuse of ac before a vowel was to last for centuries in authors of far greater scholarship; or was it
meant for at? For isti Cicero would have said hi, but iste, originally that . . . of yours/near you (ese, codesto), had
acquired the sense this by the first century AD.
The word means last or lately; it is not used by Cicero or Caesar, but is found in their contemporaries.
With Tusculanae Disputationes 5.15, cf. Jules Lebreton, tudes sur la langue et la grammaire de Cicron (Paris,
1901; repr. Hildesheim, 1965), 3245. Tempestas meaning time was a poeticism perpetuated by historians
(hence with reference to that time rather than this); Cicero, though in principle not opposed to its occasional
use (De Oratore 3.153), in practice admits it only in a report of Spartan prodigies at De Divinatione 1.75, where
the historical style was in order. Fons et origo, though approached by Florus and Gellius, as a set phrase is first
found in Tertullian and after him in other Christian authors, but also at Macrobius, Commentarii in Somnium
Scipionis 1.6.7. Pro [the best spelling] dolor first appears at Statius, Thebaid 1.77, then in late prose both pagan
and Christian.
Proportionale musices 3.5 (p. 53).
Humanism and the language of music treatises 427
Tinctoris that his servant has discussed the musical proportions by species
and genus albeit he has not painted them with the highest colours of
rhetoric apart from the matters included in the proem:
Haec equidem, clementissime rex, de proportionibus musicis specialiter et
generaliter, licet eas non summis rhethoricae coloribus tinxerit praeter
causas in prohemio positas, tuus Tinctoris tractavit, ut et Dei gratiam pre-
cibus eorum, si qui per ea proficiant, et tuum favorem assequi mereatur.
Quo et in praesenti et in futuro saeculo bene beateque vivere possit.
One may suspect the vernacular (le cose, les choses) behind causas for res,
though the word is correct for subject in a rhetorical context; in any case, it
is redeemed by eorum, si qui of any who.
No later than 1483, Tinctoris wrote a learned tractate De Inventione et Usu
Musicae in his best Latin, stuffed with quotations from the classics including
the poet Manilius, discovered early in the century, and read, it seems, in a
manuscript even though he was in print but also (in contrast to stricter
Italian practice) from the Bible and Church authors; however, he uses such
current terms as tenorista, viola, ghiterra, leutum, albeit associating the instru-
ments with the ancient lyre.
A brief specimen will suffice:
Tibia instrumentum est duo principalia tenens foramina: unum valde
angustum: per quod (canna de se sonora quam vulgus anciam
infixa) sonus f latu hominis creatus immittitur: at alterum amplum per
quod emittitur. Hanc Pallas (secundum aliquos) pre ceteris invenit:
inventamque: propter deformitatem faciei quam inf lans contrahebat
(quod et Alcibiadem Atheniensem puerum apud avunculum Periclem
fecisse: Aulus Gelius post Pamphilam refert) protinus abjecit. Canente
I procul hinc dixit non es mihi tibia tanti:
Quom vidit vultus Pallas in amne suos.
Ibid. 3.8 (p. 60).
Karl Weinmann, Johannes Tinctoris (14451511) und sein unbekannter Traktat De inventione et usu musicae,
rev. Wilhelm Fischer (Tutzing, 1961), 33, 40, 42, 45. The persistent Renaissance equation of the lyre with
modern stringed instruments, whether plucked or bowed, affected not only the names given to these
instruments but conceptions of antiquity itself. Besides the familiar Orpheus with his lute we may cite at
random Pier Francesco Molas painting in the Galleria Corsini of blind Homer, his lira da gamba between his
legs and his bow in hand, reciting his epic while an assistant takes it down; this instrument is also called lirone,
a term still applied in the regional Italian of Emilia to the violoncello and double bass. For other applications
of lira and lirone, see Blackburn, Music and festivities, 910. For Manilius, see Holford-Strevens, Tinctoris on
the great composers, 195, n. 13, and in general Ronald Woodley, The printing and scope of Tinctoris frag-
mentary treatise De inuentione et usu musice, Early Music History, 5 (1985), 23968.
French anche, Italian ancia.
Weinmann, Tinctoris 35. For the quoted passages, see Gellius, Noctes Atticae 15.17; Ovid, Ars Amatoria
3.5056. The Bible and the Fathers are also prominent in Tinctoris Complexus Effectuum Musices (c. 14778),
edited together with Egidius Carlerius Tractatus de Duplici Ritu Cantus Ecclesiastici in Divinis Officiis and Carlo
Valgulios Contra Vituperatorem Musicae by J. Donald Cullington, That Liberal and Virtous Art: Three Humanist
Treatises on Music (Newtonabbey, 2001), 7586.
428 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
This same blend of current technicalities and classicizing style marks the
Liber Musices addressed to Cardinal Ascanio Sforza by Tinctoris con-
temporary Florentius de Faxolis, canon of Firenzuola dArda, known from a
presentation copy written in humanistic script and illuminated in the
Florentine manner. It abounds in classical quotations: the initial laudes
musicae even include the tale of Arions rescue by the dolphin, as retold by
Aulus Gellius after Herodotus.
Even in the technical portions, Florentius
attempts a literary elegance by means of variatio; in the following extract he
explains how to improvise counterpoint against a rising fifth:
De notulis per dyapenten scandentibus regula quarta hoc nobis instituet.
Si in unisono quispiam se deprehensum uiderit uocem solam descendat
uel ibidem moretur uel quartam uel sextam infra uocem deponat. In
quinta uero solam uel quartam descendat. Sin autem in tertia unicam uel
sursum uel deorsum quartam uel sextam attingat. Sin uero in sexta in
eodem loco uel moretur uel inde per tertiam descendat.
This device too recalls Gellius, who not being a professional grammaticus
is not content to impart his learned information without a seasoning of style.
Florentius, musicus et sacerdos, wishes to demonstrate that, unlike other
musicians and other priests, he is also a man of culture. Unfortunately, his
grasp is not always equal to his reach:
Posteriori loco notatione digno animaduertendum uidetur ut his summa
cura notatis quibusque proprietatibus notis optime repertis et uoce
propria per ascensum et descensum in his notulis experimento habito
pronuntiata lineas et spatia altero ab altero distincto nec cognoscimus
From the sequel, which concerns the use of F and C clefs, he appears to be
saying that the lines and spaces of the staff do not, of themselves, indicate
pitch-levels; but even with that information the sentence remains uncon-
Florentius is no thoroughgoing humanist. He quotes, without apology and
as the work of St Gregory, a barbarous mnemonic for the church modes;
Florentius de Faxolis, Liber Musices, in Milan, Biblioteca Trivulziana, MS 2146, fols. 11
= 16.19 (from
Herodotus 1.234); Florentius also cites Gellius at 1
= 1.11.13; 10
= 4.13; 23
= 5.15.1, 68; 51
1.7.19 as then edited.
Ibid. 2.14 (fol. 63); the chapter-heading De experiundo contrapuncto per regulas notissimas exhibits the
older form of the third-conjugation gerundive still found in Cicero.
Ibid. 1.6 (fol. 30
Namely hexameters beginning Primus cum sexto fa la solla [sic] semper habetur, ibid. 1.14 (fol. 40
); his
annotation, Quos versus Arnaldus dalps et quamplurimi beatum Gregorium fecisse autumant, hints at the
manner of ancient learning (not least in Gellius), but it needed little critical acumen to doubt the attribution to
Gregory the Great of verses incorporating the Guidonian solmization syllables. For the verses, see e.g.
Lambertus, De Musica, CS I, 262a and numerous other treatises down to the end of the fifteenth century; they
are called rude documentum tonorum in a text cited by Adrien de La Fage, Essais de diphthrographie musicale
Humanism and the language of music treatises 429
unlike Ciconia, he is willing to talk about Gsolreut and bquadrum and bmolle.
He admits not only the Latin names for intervals, but the verb imperficere, and
adopts cadentia from the vernacular.
This word is unknown to classical Latin
in any sense at all, but has several meanings in the Middle Ages.
In music it
had been used by Jacques de Lige over a century and a half earlier for
the progression from dissonance or imperfect consonance to perfect con-
sonance, whether or not at a cadence in our sense; it recurs in Florentius
contemporaries Guillaume Guerson and Jean Le Munerat.
The alternative
clausula favoured by Tinctoris and others albeit a good classical word had
the disadvantage of also being used in the sense of interval and musical
On 5 November 1490 Adam of Fulda, ducalis musicus of Frederick the Wise
of Saxony, completed his four books of Musica. The f lowery dedication is to
be expected:
Clarissimo iurisconsulto Ioachim Luntaler advocato consistoriali, amico,
fautorique singularissimo Adam de Fulda ducalis musicus felicitatem dicit.
Cum saepius mecum egisses, vir ornatissime, ut musicale istud opuscu-
lum, per me iam dudum inchoatum, aliquando perficerem, perfectumque
tibi transmitterem, motus, ut arbitror, prima amicitiae lege, quam Cicero
esse affirmat, ut ab amicis honesta rogemus, et amicorum causa honesta
Moverunt me ibi Hieronymi verba dicentis: ne ad scribendum
cito prosilias, ne levi ducaris insania, multo tempore disce quod
. . . Non potui ergo hucusque, fateor, licet totiens promiserim;
sed causam accipe: cum nudius Pataviae,
ut ipse scis, abirem, ad Formi-
bacense me contuli monasterium [Frnbach in Bavaria] rei perficiendae
(Paris, 1864; facs. Amsterdam, 1964), 362. Livy, describing a propitiatory ritual for Juno in 207 BC, declines to
reproduce the processional hymn, illa tempestate forsitan laudabile rudibus ingeniis, nunc abhorrens et
inconditum si referatur (27.37.13).
For example (intervals), Liber Musices 2.612 (fols 55
); 3.9 Quot modis figurae perficiuntur aut
imperficiuntur (fol. 77
); 2.17 De neuma et cadentia: note especially Eandem vernacula lingua cadentiam
uocitarunt (fol. 67
It is the origin of our word chance.
Guerson, Utillissime [sic] musicales Regule (Paris, c. 1492), 2.2 in fine cadentiarum (sig. [c8]
); Le
Munerat, De Moderatione et Concordia Grammatice et Musice 623, ed. Harrn, In Defense of Music, 98. The word
has a different sense, coincidence, at Guerson, op. cit. 2 pr., bona cadentia dictaminum cum figuris as a
requisite of good discantus (sig. [b6]
), from Anonymous II, Tractatus de Discantu, ed. Albert Seay (Colorado
Springs, 1978), 32: bona cadentia dictaminum cum discantu ita quod longae figurae longis syllabis, breves
brevibus nobiliter adaptentur; to be added to Don Harrn, WordTone Relations in Musical Thought: From
Antiquity to the Seventeenth Century (Musicological Studies and Documents, 40; AIM 1986), 37684.
Besides LmL s.vv., see Siegfried Schmalzriedt in Handwrterbuch der musikalischen Terminologie s.vv.
clausula, Kadenz.
Cf. Cicero, De Amicitia 44 Haec igitur prima lex amicitiae sanciatur, ut ab amicis honesta petamus,
amicorum causa honesta faciamus, ne exspectemus quidem dum rogemur.
Epistulae 125.18.1, ed. Isidor Hilberg, 2nd edn (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticarum Latinarum [=
CSEL], 56; Vienna, 1996), 137.78.
The text seems corrupt here: nudius needs an ordinal to make sense (e.g. nudiustertius, two days ago, lit.
it is now the third day), the locative Pataviae at Passau is incompatible with the verb of motion (cum) abirem,
(when) I was departing, which requires either Pataviam for Passau or Patavia from Passau. Unfortunately
the manuscript was lost in the Strasburg fire of 1870.
430 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
gratia; quo in loco pervenerunt secundario ad me litterae tuae idipsum
poscentes: fui etenim promtus mandatis; nam duos tresve sexterniculos
complevi ibidem. Quos dum nuper furto mihi ablatos maleque rescriptos
comperissem, nolui furtive rescriptis aequalem ad te dare libellum, timens
ne prius ad te incorrectus labor pervenerit; numquam enim quaesitum iri
[lege ire]
placuit, quod inuentum molestiam inferret.
No more prepositional gerunds with object: not the medieval ad perfi-
ciendum rem, but good classical rei perficiendae gratia. Even in the more
technical second and third books he does his best to maintain the learned
tone, even if not faultlessly:
Sunt autem imprimis septem consideranda, per quae tamquam per magis
principalia in artem patet iter, scilicet manus, cantus, vox, clavis, mutatio,
modus, tonus. Guido enim Aretinus abbas de cruce S. Leufredi primus
docuit, f lexuras notarum manu discendas esse, merito concludens,
pentachordum sufficere non posse, superaddens intra
menon et ultra nete hyperboleon superexcellentes quatuor, trivarium
[lege trifarium]
cantum septempliciter
dividens litteris sub septem,
clavibus viginti, et vocibus sex. Iohannes tamen vult, ante Guidonem
Gamma esse adinventum. Sed decursu temporis moderniores musicae
praeceptores his non contenti clavibus, concluserunt ex necessitate, tribus
chordis, scilicet trite, paranete et nete hyperboleon, superaddere diapason
similiter lichanos, hypate, et parypatemeson diapason inferius
mensuralis musicae gratia per venerabilem Guilhelmum Duffay ad-
inventae; cuius compositio nostris magnum dedit initium formalitatis,
vulgo manerum dictum. Nam ipse primus regulis contentus non immerito
limites est supergressus in transpositione, cum instrumentis perutile sit ac
eorum sciolis, quorum causa plus credimus admissum fore. Nos tamen
regulis contentamur, nec minus antiquis obtemperabimus quam modernis,
licet plus subtilitatis adepti sumus; nemo tamen inter omnes est, qui non
ex veteribus se iactitet quid accepisse.
Here moderniores is distinctly modern for recentiores, nor has Adam learnt
that whereas forem is synonymous with essem, fore in classical Latin is syn-
Quaesitum iri is future infinitive passive, for it has never been held/I have never held [sc. as an opinion
on a point of fact], that that would be sought which, once found, would bring trouble, which is fatuous. With
ire we obtain good sense: for it has never seemed good/I have never seen fit to go in search of that which . . ..
GS III, 329b30a.
Not a hypercorrection of the common medieval use of infra for within, but antonymic to ultra: the notes
are conceived as running away from to ee.
The misspelling exhibits the German equivalence of v and f; the reference is to the three hexachordal
That is, into seven hexachords.
That is, they added notes an octave above b c d (namely the superacutes b c d).
One would expect to take meson with all three notes, but this would give the sense G E F an octave below
g e f, which is absurd both because the notes are out of sequence and because G, i.e. , did not need inventing.
Evidently lichanos is lichanos hypaton, and the notes concerned are D E F an octave below d e f.
Musica 2.1 (GS III, 342b).
Humanism and the language of music treatises 431
onymous not with esse as in medieval usage but with futurum esse. However,
the assertion that the low notes were invented by Dufay stands in the
classical tradition of crediting innovations in the arts either to a mythical
hero or to the first significant person known or believed to have used
Nevertheless, the technical terms remain, together with the barbarous
imperficere and sundry solecisms: Imperfectio est alicuius notae in numero
ternario depraedatio; vel sic: imperfectio vel imperficere est unam notam
perfectam imperfectam reddere,
where unam notam = eine Note, the
numeral having the force of an indefinite article; In prolatione maxima,
longa et brevis [lege maxima et longa] habent imperfici a brevi aut duabus
semibrevibus, sed brevis solummodo a semibrevi ante et retro, ut prius,
where habent imperfici, meaning may be imperfected,
abuses the classi-
cal habeo with infinitive, meaning I have the wherewithal to, am in a position
to (but such things may be found in Tertullian). There is also a tendency
towards medial placement of the verb.
Naturally the capacities of individual authors vary considerably. Guillaume
Guerson of Longueville, whose Utillissime musicales Regule (c. 1492)
expounded in the usual treatise style,
having begun with verses filched from
Hugo Spechtsharts Flores Musicae (1332, rev. 1342),
attempts to stamp his
first prose paragraph with Tullian authority:
QUoniam inter cetera mortalium nichil dignius esse constat scientiarum
liberalium cognitione: et quia vt ait Cicero in primo Retorices:
assiduitate ac exercitio: scimus id quod natura sepe negatum est hec enim
See Adolf Kleingnther, v. Untersuchungen zur Geschichte einer Fragestellung (Philologus,
Suppl. 26/1; Leipzig, 1933).
Musica 3.13 (GS III, 366a).
A mannerism in this author: cf. e.g. 2.10 Reliquae autem etsi in infinitum metiri haberent, harum tamen
reiteratio sunt (GS III, 351b); 2.11 nulla consonantia perfecta suam similem perfectam sequi habet in arsi et
thesi, sed quaelibet perfecta suam dissimilem perfectam digne imitari habet {perfecta}, ut post unisonum
diapente, post diapente diapason (ibid. 353a); 2. 15 Igitur omnis authentus a sua finali sede ascendere habet
diapason, licentialiter autem nonam aut decimam: descendunt autem a finali in proximam (ibid. 357a).
Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke, no. 11688.
For example, Punctus augmentationis est talis virtutis et conditionis quod non patitur figuram imperfici
post quam situatur sed pocius perficit imperfectam et auget in duplo sui valoris, 3.8 (sig. [d7]
Hugo Spechtshart von Reutlingen, Flores Musicae (1332/42), 114, ed. Karl-Werner Gmpel (Akademie
der Wissenschaften und der Literatur in Mainz, Abhandlungen der geistes- und sozialwissenschaftlichen
Klasse, 1958/3; Wiesbaden, 1958), 978.
Rhetorica ad Herennium (then ascribed to Cicero) 1.1: si te unum illud monuerimus, artem sine
adsiduitate dicendi non multum iuvare, ut intelligas hanc rationem praeceptionis ad exercitationem
accommodari oportere; Cicero, De Inventione 1.2 ac si volumus huius rei quae vocatur eloquentia, sive artis
sive studi sive exercitationis cuiusdam sive facultatis ab natura profectae considerare principium; 1.5 hoc si
forte non natura modo neque exercitatione conficitur, verum etiam artificio quodam comparatur. Cf. Rhet.
Her. 2.12 si ad hanc rationem praeceptionis adsiduitatem exercitationis accommodassemus; 4.69 ut
frequenter et adsidue consequamur artis rationem studio et exercitatione . . . haec omnia adipiscemur, si
rationes praeceptionis diligentia consequemur exercitationis; Tinctoris, De Arte Contrapuncti 3.9 Nam ut
Cicero Ad Herennium ait, in omni disciplina infirma est artis praeceptio sine summa assiduitate exercitationis,
ed. Albert Seay (CSM 22; AIM 1975), 156. Cf. Cicero, De Oratore 1.14.
432 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
non sine ratione In medium afferuntur: quia que paucis sumus absoluturi
nullus vnquam nisi qui studio arte exercitio assiduitate: adeptus fuerit.
non poterit ea consequi que huius preclare primi inuentores artis
consecuti sunt.
For some of the incoherence the printer, Michel Tholouze of Paris, may be
to blame;
but it was no doubt Guerson himself who inserted the ver-
nacularizing negative before poterit, as if nullus non poterit meant nul ne
pourra and not tout le monde pourra. As to its style, if the periphrastic future
sumus absoluturi is meant to suggest Cicero, it has already been undermined
by exercitio for exercitatione.
South of the Alps, such things attracted censure.
Italian humanists had been wrestling far more intently than others with the
problem of what constituted a good classical style, free from later cor-
ruptions even if of Christian origin.
Some writers constructed eclectic
styles based on the best authors; but this required taste as well as learning.
Criticism has divided the eclecticists into a moderate camp called
Quintilianists after the author so much admired by Lorenzo Valla
extremists who picked up unusual words from the second centuries BC and
AD, called Apuleianists after their ancient predecessor. A stricter school
confined legitimate usages (their own extremists said, even forms of
individual words) to those attested in Cicero. This principle has an evil
name amongst moderns as being unreasonably restrictive; yet many human-
ists did not find it so; Erasmus famous pamphlet as its very title of
Ciceronianus indicates is less an enlightened counterblast against pedantry
than a tendentious imputation of neopaganism that did more harm to its
author than to the Ciceronian cause.
Ciceronianism had the merit of
furnishing the writer with a reasonably coherent stylistic model, provided
ready-made by an author highly regarded as patriot and philosopher in
Guerson, Utillissime musicales Regule, sig. a2
Punctuating as we surely must after negatum est, we have two causal clauses, quoniam . . . constat and
quia scimus, each with its own dependent clause; but there is no corresponding main clause, for hec enim must
begin a new sentence.
The form exercitium did not exist in Ciceros day.
See e.g. Remigio Sabbadini, Storia del ciceronianismo e di altre questioni letterarie nellet della Rinascenza
(Turin, 1885).
See e.g. his letter to Giovanni Tortelli, 5 August 1441: Idem ego sum qui preposui in Commentariis quod
[sic] in Ciceronem et Quintilianum composui Quintilianum Ciceroni, Demostheni atque ipsi Homero. Ideoque
qui non studiosissimi fuerint Quintiliani eos nequaquam eloquentes existimo: Laurentii Valle epistole, ed.
Ottavio Besomi and Mariangela Regoliosi (Padua, 1984), no. 17, pp. 21516.
Ed. Pierre Mesnard, in Opera omnia Desiderii Erasmi Rotterodami, I/2 (Amsterdam, 1971), 581710; the
title comes from Jeromes dream: Ciceronianus es, non Christianus (Epist. 22.30.4). When Erasmus, once the
valiant adversary of the pious obscurantists, presents a summary of Christian doctrine, first in Church Latin,
then satirically refashioned in Ciceronian (pp. 6412), those not brought up on Church Latin have every right
to prefer the recasting, but will complain that iuxta in accordance with is post-Ciceronian and that contio does
not mean community.
Humanism and the language of music treatises 433
whom, with a little ingenuity, one could find the vocabulary for almost every
subject on which one might wish to write.
Almost, but not quite.
The choice of style was the subject of a quarrel between the eclectic
Politian and the Ciceronian Paolo Cortesi, or Paulus Cortesius,
the author
of a dialogue De Hominibus Doctis dedicated to Lorenzo il Magnifico,
surveying the history of neo-Latin literature as Ciceros Brutus had surveyed
that of Roman oratory; although Cortesius is the youngest speaker in the
dialogue, the choice of model automatically implied the claim that progress
in the art had culminated in himself, without any need for open boasting.
some time in the 1490s he sent Politian his collected letters, which the latter
returned with the comment that he was ashamed of the time he had wasted
reading them (pudet bonas horas male collocasse). He disparaged
Cortesius aping of Cicero, both on principle and for the jejunity of the
results, and recommended the prolonged and profound study of not only
Cicero but other good authors. Cortesius replied with spirit, conceding that
his performance might have fallen short of his intentions, but defending his
decision to imitate a single author, and that the best, rather than, on the
pretext of self-reliance, to combine several different styles into the jumble of
the pawnshop.
His letter is an excellent statement of the Ciceronian case;
and his account of eclecticism was amply borne out by the Apuleian writers
who gathered together the oddest words from ancient authors to mix and
Cortesius subsequently wrote a commentary on the Sentences of Peter
Lombard, published at Rome in 1504 and more than once reprinted; though
nothing could be more medieval in its content, it is in the high humanistic
See e.g. Paul F. Grendler, Schooling in Renaissance Italy: Literacy and Learning, 13001600 (Baltimore,
1989), 21534.
Successively scriptor, secretary, and protonotary apostolic; see Dizionario biografico degli italiani, XXIX
(Rome, 1983), 76680 (R. Ricciardi); Sabbadini, Storia del ciceronianismo, 3241; Ingrid D. Rowland, The Culture
of the High Renaissance: Ancients and Moderns in Sixteenth-Century Rome (Cambridge, 1998), 2005.
The dialogue was not printed until 1734, by Bernardo Paperino with a dedication to Gabriele Riccardi;
the most recent edition is by Giacomo Ferra (Palermo, 1979). Like Brutus, it is set on an island and features
three speakers: they are Cortesius himself, Alexander Farnese, and an older man called Antonius, probably
Antonio Augusto Baldo or Valdo, successor to Pomponio Leto at the Studium Romanum. Cicero, comparing
progress in other arts, had asserted that the older painters, with their restricted palette, pleased by their
draughtmanship (70), and likened the early Roman poet Naevius to the early Greek sculptor Myron (75);
Antonius likens Dante to an old picture whose paint has worn off but whose outlines still please (in Dante,
sicut in veteri pictura, detractis coloribus, delineamenta delectant), adapting an image used more aptly by
Cicero for Hortensius period of decline in the 60s BC (Brutus 320). See in general Ferra, ed. cit. 1016 and his
register of sources underneath the text. The point was taken by Cortesius friend Phosphorus (Lucio Fazini,
bishop of Segni), who concluded his complimentary letter: Ausim affirmare, si quid ego sum, omnes istos
quos commemoravisti, facile a te uno in dicendo superatos (Ferra, ed. cit. 99).
The letters are edited by Eugenio Garin, Prosatori latini del Quattrocento (Milan, 1952), 90210, and
discussed in depth by Vincenzo Fera, Il problema dellimitatio tra Poliziano e Cortesi, in Vincenzo Fera and
Augusto Guida, Vetustatis indagator: Scritti offerti a Filippo Di Benedetto (Messina, 1999), 15581, who shows that
it took place after, not before, the circulation of De Hominibus Doctis, when relations between the two were
already strained, and that for Politian the issue was not merely taste or even amour-propre, but the right of
philology to recover ancient words.
For specimens, see e.g. Sabbadini, Storia del ciceronianismo, 435; Carlo Dionisotti, Gli umanisti e il volgare
fra Quattro e Cinquecento (Florence, 1968), 84.
434 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
style, a choice defended in the prefatory address to Julius II. This begins: Diu
Pont. Max. summa est hominum contentione certatum, Philosophorumne
esset studiis latini sermonis adhibendus nitor; that one sentence is enough to
indicate the answer, but it manifestly recalls Ciceros assertion that the
advocate, when arguing points of logic, needs a polished style: haec tenenda
sunt oratori (saepe enim occurrunt), sed quia sua sponte squalidiora sunt,
adhibendus erit in iis explicandis quidam orationis nitor.
Naturally the
question is said to concern philosophers, not theologians, for the theologi of
Ciceros De Natura Deorum (5.534) who attempted to rationalize myth by
positing three Jupiters and five Sols are not to be compared with the supreme
intellectuals of antiquity. But to claim the status of philosopher is once again
to assert parity with Cicero, who demonstrated that philosophy, even when
technical, could be written in elegant Latin.
Cortesius last work was a treatise on the conduct befitting cardinals,
amongst whose number he hoped one day to be counted. Although the text
speaks resolutely of senators, it was impossible absolutely to eschew post-
classical language; the provisional title De Principe Ecclesiastico, with an
adjective attested in late antiquity, gave way in the posthumous publication of
1510 to De Cardinalatu Libri Tres, in which the substantive, despite its classical
suffix, is of medieval coinage. For all his avoidance of unnecessary Chris-
tianisms, the author is no longer bound by the idiolect of Cicero, but draws
on other authors, and even invents words of his own; obscure terms are
explained either in the margin or in the annotations appended by his brother
Lattanzio, or Lactantius, but originally conceived by the author himself.
book 2, among the amenities of daily life, Cortesius turns to music, which
contrary to certain persons opinion is morally beneficial. He goes into some
at uero dorica ratio multo est aequali mediocritate temperatior: quale
illud genus uideri uolunt / quod est / a / Diuo Gregorio in aberrun-
catorio [lege auerruncatorio] sacro stataria canendi mensione institutum :
quocirca nostri omnem canendi rationem in litatoria / praecentoria : et
carmina comparando seiungunt . . .
This may be translated, without loss of style or gain of clarity, as:
By contrast, the Dorian principle is more temperate by reason of an even
moderation, such as they predicate of that kind which was instituted by St
Gregory in the apotropaic rite with standing measure of singing: where-
fore our generation classify the entire method of singing into the music of
propitiatory sacrifice, choirmaster music, and songs . . .
Orator 115.
See Fera, Il problema dellimitatio, 17781.
Paulus Cortesius, De Cardinalatu Libri Tres (Castel Cortesiano, 15 November 1510), sig. K1
, reproduced
in facsimile by Pirrotta, Music and cultural tendencies, 150, whose article has given this work a certain
notoriety amongst musicologists.
Humanism and the language of music treatises 435
The marginal notes indicate that the standing measure of singing is the
cantus firmus S. Gregorii, or Gregorian chant, and that the music of propi-
tiatory sacrifice consists in masses, and choirmaster music in motets. But for
any reader who did not recognize the aberruncatorium, or as we should spell
it the averruncatorium sacrum, Lattanzio explains, in a gloss of steadily
decreasing classicality, that it is the depulsory rite instituted by St Gregory to
avert the plague, namely the Litany: Aberuncatorio sacro / aberuncare per
translationem est auertere / hic acipitur [lege accipitur] pro sacro depul-
sorio / quod .D.Gre. instituit ad auertendum pestem: letania.
Cortesius continues that in masses, or rather in litatoria, omnia pthon-
gorum / prosodiarum analogicarumque mensionum genera uersantur.
as Lattanzio explains, is a sound;
the term is known to medieval
writers on music in the specific sense of a pitch,
but on its first appearance
in Latin, in the elder Pliny, it denotes a mode, and a reference elsewhere in
the text to Lydian pthongi suggests that Nino Pirrotta was right to give it that
meaning here,
when Cortesius uses modus, it is in its classical sense of
Prosodia represents , the Greek word calqued in Latin as
accentus; it largely corresponds to the modern linguistic term supra-
segmental, including both accent in the narrow sense, duration, and other
things besides.
Although Lattanzios note does not explain the application
of this word to music,
if pthongi are indeed modes the prosodiae are likely to
be pitches. Lattanzio does not bother to explain analogicae mensiones, perhaps
Annotationes quaedam in libros Pauli Cortesii de Cardinalatu expositorie quarundam dictionum, quae
difficiles intellectu dicebantur, ibid., sig. X1
; ad auertendum pestem is a medieval solecism for pestis
auertendae causa (though imperial Latin would have allowed ad pestem auertendam). Pirrotta, Music and cultural
tendencies, 159, seems not to know this appendix.
This, not phthongus, is the classical spelling; phth for , like chth for , was shown to be a Renaissance
hypercorrection by Wilhelm Schulze, Orthographica et Graeca Latina (Sussidi eruditi, 14; Rome, 1958), 3985.
Phthongus est sonus, Annotationes, sig. [X6]
For example Musica Enchiriadis 1: Ptongi autem non quicumque dicuntur soni, sed qui legitimis ab
invicem spaciis melo sunt apti (p. 3 Schmid); cf. Boethius limitation of sonus to pthongus at Mus. 1.8 (ultimately
from Aristoxenus, Elementa Harmonica 1.15), and see Calvin M. Bower (trans.), Fundamentals of Music, ed.
Claude V. Palisca (New Haven, 1989), 16, n. 63.
Naturalis Historia 2.84: Saturnum Dorio moveri pthongo, Iovem Phrygio; cf. Cortesius, sig. FF2
satis notum sit / eos tum maxime in precando lydios frequentare solere phtongos / quibus inf lexa ad dolorem
uoce / animi ad f letum deducantur / quo ostendi lugubri sono possit aff lictus humanae calamitatis angor;
the marginal gloss is quando dicitur tractus. By variatio, the Creed solet phrygia ratione cani (ibid.). See
Pirrotta, Music and cultural tendencies, 160; in what follows, however, I differ from his interpretations.
Thus sig. K2
= fol. 74
: [motets are more freely composed] ne uniusmodi seruarentur in canendo
modi / quibus litatoria continuata cadunt; a little below Isaac is criticized quod in hoc genere [the motet]
licentius catachresi / modorumque iteratione utatur / quam maxime aures fastidii similitudine in audiendo
notent; see Pirrotta, Music and cultural tendencies, 160 and cf. Martin Staehelin, Die Messen Heinrich Isaacs (3
vols, Publikationen der Schweizerischen Musikforschenden Gesellschaft, II.28; Bern, 1977), II, 95. Lattanzio
explains Catachrisis [sic] latine abusio dicitur, sig. X2
The ten prosodies were: acute, grave, circumf lex, long, short, hyphen [two words read together],
diastole [marking a separation], apostrophe [marking a curtailment], rough breathing, smooth breathing.
Prosodiarum auctore Gel. [= Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 13.6.1] est accentus / quam tum modera-
mentum / tum accentiunculam / tum uoculationem dicebant fit a ` ad et cantus, Annotationes, sig.
436 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
because even those who, as he put it, spoke Barbarian rather than Latin knew
that analogicus was the model for proportionalis.
It is not, of course, a professional musician who is speaking here: though
Cortesius is happy enough, unlike many elegant laymen, to use technical
language provided it is ancient, he appears to use it rather loosely.
of our sixteenth-century theorists, however, attempt a humanistic style for
Among the writings of Franchino Gaffori or Gaffurius, maestro di cappella of
the Duomo at Milan from 1484 to 1522, is a Practica Musice in four books
of which the second exists in four versions: (i) a manuscript of the early
1480s preserved in the Houghton Library at Harvard; (ii) an Italian
translation by Gaffurius pupil Francesco Caza published in 1492; (iii) a
definitive Latin text published in 1496; and (iv) the Tractatus Tertius of the
authors own heavily revised adaptation published in 1508 under the title
Angelicum ac Divinum Opus Musice, but cast mainly in Italian for those such
as nuns (a la deuotione de molte donne religiose) who could not under-
stand Latin or rather, given the vocabulary used, could understand Latin
words but not Latin grammar. All four have dedications to illustrious
persons, the least illustrious being Filippino Fieschi, captain of the guard, to
whom Gaffurius not Caza dedicated the first translation, the most
illustrious Duke Ludovico Maria Sforza himself, who received the Latin text
of 1496. I give below the beginnings of each dedication, and in Appendix I
the opening sentences of the chapter concerning imperfection, taken in
each case to the same point of subject-matter:
(i) Franchinus Gaforus laudensis musices professor Guidoni Antonio
arcimboldo Equiti aurato praestantissimo uiro ac ducis insubrium
Senatori dignissimo. Salutem plurimam dicit.
Si de tua praestantissime aurate Eques summa humanitate singularique
beneficentia et charitate cum in omnes tum maxime erga eos qui speciali
quadam morum honestate doctrina ac aliquo uirtutis splendore pre-
eminent non optime exploratum haberem eam sane scribendi prouinciam
mihi in presentiarum haud quaquam usurpassem. Verum cum me minime
See sig. [XI]
: hac maxime tempestate / qua Barbare potius quam Latine loqui homines consuescunt /
et magis in senticetis inambulare uolunt quam pomariis.
Observe his comment on the German lute duo who devised a style quo simplex antiquorum per
hyperboleon iteratio ab hypate singulorum coagmentatione iungeretur (sig. K1
); see Pirrotta, Music and
cultural tendencies, 1578. Lattanzio glosses hypate correctly (corda <in> instrumento musico grauior et
maior caeteris, sig. X4
), but the next entry runs: Hyperboleon est corda quae superat acumine netas: uide
Boetium, a garbling of Mus. 1.20 (211.35). To be sure this is less f lagrant than Juvenals misuse of cacoethes,
malignant but curable growth or ulcer, to mean addiction (7.52). In fact Roman authors were not implacably
opposed to the use of technical language in literary contexts, provided it could be understood, though they
often avoided it: see Brenda Bell, Roman literary attitudes to technical terms, Acta Classica, 34 (1991), 8392.
But ease of comprehension was no longer Cortesius main concern.
Humanism and the language of music treatises 437
lateat prestantissimam humanitatem tuam tanta beniuolentia tantaque
eximiae uirtutis obseruantia ac potius ardore pietatis affectam ut omnia
[illeg.] nobis summa anim[i] praestantia ac bonitate liceat polliceri, quod
profecto et tua ut de multis ita et de genitore meo quamplurima optime
m[erita] declarant, huic scribendi officio deesse nequaquam potui.
(ii) Splendido equiti aurato Philipino f lisco ducalis custodie capitaneo
Franchinus Gaffurus salutem
Meorum assecla studiorum Franciscus cacia qui te et suspicit et
ueneratur eques splendide vernacula lingua quamuenuste et eleganter
mensurabilium figurarum compendium a me exactis annis latine editum
contexuit quod prestantie tue gratum existimans: ad te summa cum animi
sui commendatione mittit: vt exercitationis sue apud te notior ratio
habeatur<.> Id enim cato censorinus fieri censuit: quod quidem non
possum non vehementer approbare: cum et musices suauitate atque ut
platonica lex admonet gymnastica pre ceteris rebus merito te delectari
videam . . .
(iii) Illustrissimo et Excellentissimo Principi domino .D. Lodouico Mariae
Sfortiae Angl[eri]o Duci Mediolanensium inuictissimo Franchinus
Gaforus Musicae professor Salutem.
Quantae musicae artis professio Illustrisime Princeps apud Priscos non
authoritatis modo sed etiam venerationis extiterit facile edocemur et
summorum Philosophorum exemplo qui se admodum senes ad hanc
disciplinam velut in ea summam studiorum suorum manum imposituri
contulerunt: et seuerissimarum rerum publicarum instituto: quae cum
summa diligentia quicquid moribus publice officeret: circuncidi curassent:
hanc tamen artem non modo non eiecerint: sed etiam velut morum
parentem Altricemque summo studio excoluerunt: et vt claudam semel
omnium gentium omniumque nationum consentienti stabilique confir-
matur iudicio apud quas nihil umquam fuit cura maiore celebratum. Quae
enim alia disciplina tanto mortalium assensu: tantaque omnis vel aetatis
vel sexus conspiratione recepta est: vt nullius conditionis vllus sit adhuc
repertus qui molestias suas vel rudi saltem modulatione consolari non
(iv) Magnifico ac Clarissimo Musarum Cultori domino Simoni Crotto
Patricio Mediolanensi: Franchinus Gafurius Regius musicus Salutem.
Dii quam bene agitur quoties in magna Vrbe quis claris natalibus pollens
addit ad parentum gloriam cum diuitiarum amplitudine moderationem: et
Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Mus 142 (early 1480s), fol. 1
; transcribed by Bonnie J.
Blackburn. Here and in all subsequent transcriptions I render and as ae, & as et (in both Latin and Italian),
and as oe. Letters lost in trimming have been restored in square brackets.
Francesco Caza, Tractato vulgare de canto figurato (Milan, 1492; facs. Berlin, 1922), sig. [a1]
. Cato
censorinus (i.e. Censorius) may be the Cato of Cicero, De senectute 38; but see below, n. 118.
Gaffurius, Practica Musice (Milan, 1496; facs. Farnborough, 1967), sig. [3]
. The allusions are to
Socrates and Sparta.
438 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
uirtutis: litterarumque studia: ut bonis artibus tam proprio labore
emineat: quam bonae Fortunae Indulgentia est: reliqua ad uitae ornatum
consecutus: Hunc qualescunque sunt principes suspiciunt: res publicae
excipiunt: proxime ad immortales omne hominum genus non immerito
admiratur. Tales non paucos Roma rerum domina: et graecia foelicior
quondam tulit: Non multos posterior aetas uel effoeta natura: uel uirtute
per contemptum fatiscente . . .
Naturally a dedication will be in a more literary style than the technical part:
there is no linear increase in classicity, for it is the first dedication that calls
the duke of Milan the leader of the Insubres; that affectation was omitted in
the others, perhaps because, read with a classical eye, it denoted the chief of
a barbarian tribe against which Rome fought fierce battles. By contrast,
Fieschi is called capitaneus, a hopelessly non-classical word for which
praefectus would have been substituted in any work intended to impress the
learned. But the third and fourth dedications are in the most f lowery style,
the fourth staking its high humanistic claims by speaking of and even
invoking the gods in the plural.
So far as the business part is concerned, however, there is no attempt at
avoiding unclassical technicalities; nevertheless, the scholastic language of
accidents and essence used in the first draft disappears in 1496, and the
sentence structure of the Latin texts becomes more complex:
[MS Houghton 142] quod si figurae fuerint in quantitatiuis acci[den]tibus
imperfectis: per punctum tunc possunt augmentari et sic aequipolent
[But if the note-shapes are in imperfect quantitative accidents, then they
may be augmented by a point and are thus tantamount to perfection.]
[1496 edn.] Verum dispositis in cantilena figuris secundum propriam
binariae ac imperfectae quantitatis rationem: eas plerumque certo
augmentationis puncto perornant: quo dimidia vniuscuiusque figurae
quantitas superexcrescit: hinc ternariam sectionem acquirunt: ipsi aequi-
polentes perfectioni.
[But, the note-shapes in the song having been disposed according to the
principle proper to the binary and imperfect quantity, they most often
equip them with a certain point of augmentation: whereby the half value
of every single note-shape grows from it in addition; hence they acquire a
ternary division, being themselves tantamount to perfection.]
All the same, Gaffurius has no qualms about the verb imperficere; contrari-
wise, although in the Italian versions we find the infinitive imperficere, and in
Caza also the participial adjective imperficiente, in all finite forms the notion
is expressed by such periphrases as fa esser imperfetta or se fa imperfetta.
Musical Italian is thus purer than musical Latin.
Angelicum ac Diuinum Opus Musice (Milan, 1508; facs. Bologna, 1971), sig. [A4]
Humanism and the language of music treatises 439
Gaffurius also wrote a Theoricum Opus Musicae Disciplinae, which exists in:
(i) an autograph manuscript of 1479, dedicated to Antonio de Guevara,
count of Potenza;
(ii) a printed book of 1480 almost unchanged save for
rededication to Cardinal Giovanni Arcimboldo; and (iii) a revised edition of
1492, dedicated to Lodovico Maria Sforza, duke of Bari but as yet only
governor of Milan on behalf of the nominal duke, his nephew Gian Galeazzo.
The prose dedications are in high style, with allusions to Cato, Sallust, and
Cicero; in the revised edition Gaffurius describes his position as in delubri
maioris choro phonascus, voice-trainer in the choir of the larger temple.
technical part is in a higher style than that of the practical work, and uses the
Greek note-names; nevertheless, one would not call it humanistic, and there
remain even in the final version such medievalisms as sibi not referring to the
subject. The citations given below, from the dedication, and in Appendix II
from the chapter on intervals in the Greater Perfect System,
will indicate
the development.
(i) franchini gafori laudensis musices professoris pars prima musicae
speculationis ad Illustrem et excelsum Don Antonium de Gevara Comitem
potentiae musicum clarissimum
Utra mihi sententia plus placeat Illustrissime Comes Marci ne Catonis
qui non minus ocii quam negocii reddendam rationem et amissum
negligentia diem magna poenitentia prosequendum multaque diligentia
resarciendum iudicauit
/ an Crispi Salustij aliorumque doctrina et
sapientia clarissimorum qui desidiam propriam belluarum existimant
nondum satis constitui. Ille quid magnis Viris maxime agendum: hi quid
praecipue uideatur unicuique homini fugiendum proponunt. quorum
cum alterum caueri pluribus modis alterum effici possit / non in
postremis collocanda uidetur scribendi exercitatio et Stilus Marci Tulli
sententia non dicendi modo uerum etiam intelligendi magister optimus
mihi ad effugiendam socordiam rationemque ocii mei constituendam non
minus auide quam consulto arreptus.
(ii) Clarissimi ac prestantissimi musici Franchini Gafori Laudensis
On this dedication, see Clement A. Miller, Francesco Zambeccari and a musical friend, Renaissance
Quarterly, 25 (1972), 4258.
For a similar phrase in Malegolos life of Gaffurius, and for its everyday counterpart magister biscantandi,
see Alessandro Caretta, Luigi Cremascoli, and Luigi Salamini, Franchino Gaffurio (Lodi, 1951), 25, 73.
This differs from the Immutable Perfect System by excluding the synemmenon tetrachord (a b
c d); a is
recognized only as mese, c d only as trite and paranete diezeugmenon.
Cf. Cato, Origines, fr. 2 clarorum uirorum atque magnorum non minus oti quam negoti rationem
exstare oportet, in Hermann Peter, Historicorum Romanorum Reliquiae, 2nd edn (Leipzig, 1914, repr. Stuttgart,
1967), I, 55 with note ad loc.; et introduces Gaffurius own gloss.
A distillation of Sallust, De Coniuratione Catilinae 1.2 animi imperio, corporis seruitio magis utimur;
alterum nobis cum dis, alterum cum beluis commune est, 4.1 non fuit consilium socordia atque desidia
bonum otium conterere, Bellum Jugurthinum 1.4 sin captus prauis cupidinibus ad inertiam et uoluptates
corporis pessum datus est . . . ubi per socordiam uires tempus ingenium diff luxere.
Cf. Cicero, De Oratore 1.150 stilus optimus et praestantissimus dicendi effector et magister.
British Library, MS Hirsch IV 1441, fol. 2
, transcribed by L. A. Holford-Strevens.
440 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
Theoricum opus musice discipline Ad Reuerendissimum in christo patrem
dominum dominum Iohannem Arcimboldum miseratione diuina
sacrosancte Romane ecclesie presbiterum Cardinalem Nouariensem
Utra mihi sententia plus placeat Reuerendissime pater. . . .
(iii) Ad magnanimum et pientissimum dominum Lodouicum Mariam
Sphortiam Vicecomitem: Bari ducem: principis excellentissimi: et rei
Mediolansensis gubernatorem: Franchini Gafuri Laudensis in delubri
maioris choro phonasci Theoricum opus musice discipline
Quorum magis sententiae accedere debeam maxime aeui tui Rector
Lodouice Sphortia: an eorum qui tam ocii quam negotii rationem exigunt
et neglectum (emoriente opera) diem duplici foenore calumniatricis
diligentiae resarciendum putant: an eorum qui turpem desidiae notam et
ignauae socordiae ignominiam brutis animalibus onerosam et peculiarem
sarcinam attribuunt nundum [lege nondum] satis compertum habeo. Ii
quid hominem liberum agere conueniat: Ii quid unumquenque fugere
maxime oporteat: ante oculos quasi in tabula proponunt.
Yet despite the pretensions thus revealed, Gaffurius monthly salary ad
lecturam musices at the dukes Gymnasium Mediolanense in 1498 was a mere
6 lire 9 soldi 8 denari, the lowest of any professors, compared with Demetrios
Chalkondyles 96 l. 17 s. 6 d. for teaching Greek and the 25 l. 16 s. 8 d. drawn
by Luca Pacioli, who taught geometry and arithmetic.
Evidently he was
regarded as a mere technician, unversed in the higher learning. Despite his
ignorance of Greek, the owner and annotator of Plutarchs Lives (albeit in
Lapo Fiorentinos Latin) and at least that volume of Ficinos Plato which
contained Timaeus,
had aspirations to being a philosopher and man of
letters: having read the Greek theorists in specially commissioned trans-
Gaffurius set out his stall of learning in De Harmonia Musicorum
Instrumentorum Opus, begun about the turn of the century but not published
until 1518.
Now that Milan was subject to France, a Gaulish name could be used again
without embarrassment in the dedication to Jean Grolier:
Franchinus Gaffurius, Theoricum Opus Musice Discipline (Naples, 1480; facs. Lucca, 1996), without
signatures or foliation. From here on, in the quoted passage, only accidentals differ.
Theorica Musice (Milan, 1492; facs. Rome, 1934), fol. [3]
See Caretta, Cremascoli, and Salamini, Franchino Gaffurio, 91.
See respectively Kate Trauman Steinitz, Two books from the environment of Leonardo da Vinci in the
Elmer Belt Library of Vinciana: Gafurio and Plutarch, Libri, 1 (19501), 114, and Otto Kinkeldey, Franchino
Gafori and Marsilio Ficino, Harvard Library Bulletin, 1 (1949), 37982 (the book is now in the Bibliotheca
Hermetica Philosophica, Amsterdam). See too Palisca, Humanism, 16678, 181225.
Not by Chalkondyles, but by Gianfranesco Burana and Niccol Leoniceno: see Alberto Gallo, Le
traduzioni dal greco per Franchino Gaffurio, Acta Musicologica, 35 (1963), 1724.
The work was dedicated first to Bonifazio Simonetta (d. 1502), abbot of S. Stefano del Corno, then to
another prospective patron no longer identifiable: for its evolution see Clement A. Millers introduction to his
English translation (Musicological Studies and Documents, 33; AIM 1977), 1118.
Humanism and the language of music treatises 441
Franchinus Gafurius Ioanni Grolierio Lugdunensi Christianissimi Fran-
corum Regis a Secretis ac Insubriae Quaestori Primario. S.P.D.
Mos fuit apud Antiquos uir Amplissime: quem posteriores per manus
traditum ad haec usque tempora seruauerunt: ut lucubrationes suas
doctissimi quique Illustri cuipiam uiro nuncuparent: ut tantorum uirorum
authoritas eas ab inuidiae morsibus mastigiisque uendicaret. Propterea
dioscorides Anazarbeus (ut sudas tradit) Marco Antonio: Plutarchus
Traiano: Pollux Naucratita Commodo: Aristoteles Alexandro Macedoni,
Oppianus Antonino Caesari: Philostratus Seuero: ingenii sui commenta
nominatim dedicauere.
When he returns to the intervals of the fifteen strings, his lengthy
exposition (see Appendix II), beginning with Mercury, Orpheus, and
Pythagoras, is largely taken from the Byzantine theorist Manuel Bryennios
(c. 1300). In literary elaboration De Harmonia thus goes well beyond the
Theorica, as befits a work addressed to a humanist by one who aspires to the
same status and who, in his next publication, falls with learned vehemence
on the non-Latinist Giovanni Spataro, maestro de canto at S. Petronio in
Bologna, for venturing to disagree with him. The emphasis on the need for
Latinity and mathematics recalls Tinctoris, whom Gaffurius follows in this
as in his musical doctrines; but the style has become far more ornate and
Nunc tua deliramenta iamdiu latentia non qua debeo acerbitate: sed qua
solitus sum modestia taxare fas sit. Non enim abs te quicquam dis-
simulatum iri arbitror, quod ad depraehendendam ignorantiam tuam
pertineat. Plaerumque fit ut qui interpellandi lacerandiue studio tenentur
dum alienam eruditionem insectantur propriam petulantiam prodant.
Quo nam pacto conuitiator leuissime ad Parnasi aditum musarumque
lares absque latinitate peruenire potuisti? qui a uulgari uestigio minime
semotus non modo musicam sed et philosophiam, ac mathematicas
caeterasque bonas artes profitearis? cum identidem nos admonueris hoc
est si quando ad te scribere destinassem id omne materna lingua expli-
caretur quasi a uulgo non differas.
De Harmonia (Milan, 1518), sig. A1
. Pollux indeed dedicated Onomasticon to Commodus and Oppian
Cynegetica to Antoninus Caracalla; Philostratus moved in the circle of Severus consort Julia Domna, who
commissioned him to write on Apollonius of Tyana. The Byzantine lexicon known as the Suda or Fortress but
long ascribed to one Suidas conf lates Dioscorides of Anazarbus (first century AD), author of the Materia
Medica, with Dioscorides of Alexandria, a physician at the court of Cleopatra and Antony; it does not say that
he dedicated his books to the latter, though a poor Hellenist might have mistranslated v (dative of agent
with the perfect passive: by him, sc. Dioscorides) as to him (Antony). The famous Instructio Traiani was
written in Plutarchs name by John of Salisbury; Aristotle was wrongly supposed to be the author of the
Rhetorica ad Alexandrum (written by Anaximenes of Lampsacus) and De mundo, also dedicated to Alexander; he
was further credited with having written him a letter on kingship.
Apologia Franchini Gafurii Musici aduersus Ioannem Spatarium et complices musicos Bononienses (Turin,
1520; repr. New York, 1979), sig. A1
. The work is a reply to criticism by Spataro (who, though able to write only
in Italian, could give as good as he got) of De harmonia musicorum instrumentorum, conveyed per 18 mie
epistole: see Bonnie J. Blackburn, Edward E. Lowinsky, and Clement A. Miller, A Correspondence of Renaissance
Musicians (Oxford, 1991), 374.
442 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
Even in the technical portions of his polemic, as when blasting Spataro for
incomprehension of the harmonic mean, he writes as elegantly as his matter
In septima autem tua blatratoria descriptione deducis hanc medietatem
.1.2.3. ut mere harmonicam per diapentem in graue et diapason in
acutum, quod non admitto: nam differentiae terminorum nullam habent
in proportione cum extremis terminis conuenientiam: iccirco non longe
indifferentem ab hac suauissima concinnitate .6.4.3. modulationem
producet. Rursus quoniam dupla ipsa .2. ad .1. supra sesqualteram ducta
nullum habet naturaliter medium numerum quo integre ac rite possit
harmonice mediari Harmonicae huic .6.4.3. medietati coaequari pari
suauitate non potest.
Since De Harmonia does not deal in mensural matters, there was no need
either to use or to circumvent imperficere; the Apologia has neither imperficere
nor imperfectio, only the unimpeachable signum temporis perfecti est circu-
lus, imperfecti uero est semicirculus.
However, since this is the only place
at which the word might have been used, we cannot tell whether Gaffurius
still regarded it as a legitimate technical term, as he does semibreuis.
A decade or so later, the Lutheran composer Johannes Frosch composed a
treatise, Rerum Musicalium Opusculum Rarum ac Insigne, first published at
Strasburg in 1532 and again in 1535. He writes elegantly, with abundant
classical citations; against the scholastic reasoning of a Jacques de Lige one
may set his allusion to Empedocles universal principles of Love and Strife.
One may catch him out in his Latinity from time to time, nor does he
eschew imperficere, but when he has to speak of cadences he calls them
commissurae or joins, a good Ciceronian word not previously employed in
this context; if the term is ambiguous as between the final consonance and
the approach to it, that is no more than our double use of cadence in a
cadence on A and a sixth-to-octave cadence.
Primum fit haec commissura, syncopata, et (ut ita loquar) concisa
synaeresi notularum. Ea nempe inter committendum sic conciditur, ut
partim in sesquioctauos, aut limmata, duriusculum quidpiam sonando,
partim in sesquialteros, sesquitertios, ditonos, semiditonos, aut sextas. Imo
etiam in tritonos, quos auris alioqui et ratio Musica abhorret, ante
commissuram def lectat, unde continuo in solidas illas et perfectas
consonantias, nempe o , o , o cum o et
o committit, ac desinit. Id quod iuxta Empedoclis sententiam,
Apologia Franchini Gafurii, sig. A4
. A Hellenist would object to the accusative diapentem.
Ibid., sig. [A9]
. That tempus and prolatio in this passage have their technical meanings is no offence in a
technical writer.
Humanism and the language of music treatises 443
instar mundanae fabricae ex lite amicitiaque constantis, factum, et auris
percipit, et ratio adprobat.
We may observe how Frosch has attempted to designate intervals by classical
or classicizing names, either for the intervals themselves or their generating
ratios; he has strayed by calling minor thirds semiditoni, a medieval name
with the characteristic misuse of semi-, rather than trihemitonia, but only for
sixths has he used the common working name, knowing unlike Marchetto,
Ciconia, and indeed Florentius de Faxolis that hexas never bore that sense
in any Greek or Roman text.
When three paragraphs later he recommends
the reader to collect commissuras quam optimas from as many composers
as possible for use in his own works,
his examples range from brief
cadential formulae to longer segments, mostly from the ends of phrases,
often adjacent and hence capable of being put together by the pupil.
Unfortunately two other writers of the period also pressed the same word
into service, but in different senses. Biagio Rossetti, the organist at Verona,
who sometimes rises above treatise Latin, uses the word once by way of
elegant variation instead of ligatura:
Est igitur proprietas, conueniens principiis ligaturarum descriptio,
musicis authoribus instituta, ultimis autem commissura [lege commissurae]
notulis quod omnium rerum perfectio, teste Philosopho fini attribuitur,
perfectionem ascripserunt . . .
and Glareanus, not a humanistic musician but a musical humanist, applies it
to movement between the fifth and the upper or lower fourth within a
Hic commissuras duarum diatessaron cum diapente prosequamur. Ego
sane eam harmoniam primam simplicem, ac, ut alia primitiuae Ecclesiae,
sine fucis ac lenociniis compositam fuisse puto. Cuius rei argumentum
Johannes Frosch, Rerum Musicarum Opusculum (Strasburg, 1535), sig. [D6]
. The Greek terms denote
respectvely the intervals of fifth, octave, twelfth, and fifteenth.
Limmata are (minor) semitones, ditoni major thirds; sesquioctavi, sesquialteri, and sesquitertii are tones,
fifths, and fourths, generated respectively by the ratios 9:8, 3:2, 4:3. However, even in just intonation neither
the major sixth (5:3) nor the minor sixth (8:5) can be so described without revealing the ratios to be
superpartient, which in ancient theory indicated dissonance.
Frosch, Rerum Musicarum Opusculum, sigs [D6]
. On this passage, see Jessie Ann Owens, Composers
at Work: The Craft of Musical Composition 14501600 (New York, 1997), 1913; the commissurae present the
connective tissue, the measures leading up to cadences . . . building blocks (p. 193). Jeffrey Dean, Josquin the
Teacher: a lost treatise and vestiges of the oral tradition, paper delivered at the 66th Annual Meeting of the
American Musicological Society, Toronto, on 4 November 2000, pointed out the similarity between this
passage and Lampadius advice to the composer quasdam, in animo, clausulas, sed optimas, excogitare, using
the more normal word: Compendium musices (Berne, 1554; orig. 1537), sig. G5
(cit. E. E. Lowinsky, On the use
of scores by sixteenth-century musicians, Music in the Culture of the Renaissance, II, 797802 at 798; Owens,
Composers at Work, 667).
Biagio Rossetti, Libellus de Rudimentis Musices (Verona, 1529; facs. New York, 1968), sig. c1
Aribo of Freising had used it of the note at which the fourth and fifth join within the octave species:
finalis medium eiusdem diapason [the first species] vinculum, in qua est D. commissura diatesseron et
diapente (De Musica, ed. J. Smits van Waesberghe [CSM 2; Rome, 1951], 27).
444 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
esse potest, quod ipsa Narratio magna ex parte in Lydio mansit, et
dntaxat commissurarum altera, quae ad inferiorem est diatessaron, in
Ionicum declinauit. Commissuras uoco, noua quidem uoce, sed neces-
sitate expressa, quoties ex diapente narratio tendit in diatessaron alteram,
siue superiorem . . .
Glareanus, though he uses the pitch-letters besides the Greek names, and
even admits the verb imperficere, nevertheless writes in the humanistic style,
as different from our fourteenth-century specimens as Willaerts music from
By this stage certain standards of correctness were expected of any text
intended for the public; but if music was a liberal art, and of divine insti-
tution, as musical authors loved to maintain,
then humanism required its
principles to be expounded in language worthy of it. This imposed a greater
demand on author and reader than the loose-shoe Latinity of the Middle
Ages, even as printers were creating new classes of reader who could not, or
would not, read Latin, and as the fashion for defence and illustration of the
vulgar tongues was encouraging their use for subjects previously reserved
for the language of learning. As in other endeavours, humanism, having
cleansed and clothed Latin from its Gothic squalor, elevated the various
vernaculars to compete with it;
we now find musical treatises in Italian,
Spanish, French, Dutch, German, English, and Scots.
This last is the
language of British Library, Add. MS 4911, written c. 1580, The art of music
collecit out of all ancient doctouris of music,
of which I quote the opening
QVHAT IS MENSURAL music? Music mensurall (as ornitoparchus ane
doctur of Music dois writ) is discretionn of modulationn and forme in
discreit figuris In Mud, tym and prolationn quantificat. Or it is ye artt of
full Harmony yat is perfytlie constitut throw deversitie of signis and Vocis.
Or it is of augmentationn and diminitionn Mud tyme prolation the perfyt
securitie and ewident distinction; of all essenciall nottis mesuris and
pausis. Quhairthrow ye quantatie and valur of ewerie figur in the propir
kynd is manifest and in cantionis with mesur modulat.
Henricus Loritus Glareanus, Dodecachordon (Basle, 1547; facs. Hildesheim 1969), 1456.
See Reinhard Strohm, Music, humanism, and the idea of a rebirth of the arts, in id. (ed.), New Oxford
History of Music (new edn.), III/1: Music as Concept and Practice in the Late Middle Ages (Oxford, forthcoming).
For a chronological list of treatises printed between 1474 and c. 1800, see Rpertoire international des
sources musicales, B II: crits imprims concernant la musique, ed. Franois Lesure (2 vols, Munich and Duisburg,
1971), II, 100938. An early manuscript specimen is that ascribed to Antonio di Leno: Regulae [sic] de
contrapunto, ed. Albert Seay (Colorado College Music Press, Critical Texts, 1; Colorado Springs, 1977).
Scots then, no longer called Inglis by its speakers, was a literary language in its own right with its own
canons of style, which included an easy acceptance of Latin loanwords that the most pedantic of English
authors would have eschewed.
For another extract, see Judson Dana Maynard, Heir beginnis countering, Journal of the American
Musicological Society, 20 (1967), 18296, who refers to his Indiana University dissertation of 1961: An
anonymous Scottish treatise on music from the sixteenth century, Add. MS 4911, edition and commentary.
Humanism and the language of music treatises 445
To be sure the technicalities had to be borrowed or translated: modus tempus
prolatio become Mud [in English mood, now mode], tym(e), and
prolationn, and the doctrine (as in other works of the time) looks to the
past; but it was with the vernacular that the future lay, and not with false
antiquity. The most important treatise of the age was Gioseffo Zarlinos Le
istitutioni harmoniche, first published at Venice in 1558; when at the turn of
the century Giovanni Maria Artusi attacked the new music of the day, he
wrote not in Latin like Jacques de Lige but in Italian, and it was in Italian
that Monteverdi defended his seconda prattica.
Nevertheless, musical Latin achieved one last heroic seventeenth-century
manifestation in Athanasius Kircher, whose Musurgia Universalis sive Ars
Magna Consoni et Dissoni (Rome, 1650) abounds in terms more learned than
Fieri sane non potest, vt in tanta Musicorum frequentia non insignes
abusus defectusque committantur; dum enim omnes musica naturaliter
afficiuntur; omnesque ex naturali illa philautia audiri malunt, quam
audire, sua quilibet tantum, non alia stimat, fit vt infim etiam sortis
homines manum ad melotheticum negotium peritorum Musicorum &
iudicio pollentium proprium admoueant. Vnd tot fer Musurgi, quot
phonasci, tot symphonet, quot Cantores.
Musurgus for a performer represents the Greek , already found in
Xenophon; melotheticum negotium, the business of composition, is a false
friend, for the attested Greek ` comes not from ` tune but
from ` limb, denoting such things as the astrological assignation of
bodily members to the signs of the zodiac. A is properly a
voice-trainer; the word is easily extended, as by Gaffurius, to a choirmaster,
but Kircher uses it like Quintilian and Epictetus for the professional
the context must be understood before the words can be
interpreted.Once again, the owl of Minerva f lew by night; this monument of
classical learning and classicizing invention heralded the end of humanistic
music theory.
Musurgia universalis, book 7, part 2, ch. 5 (rightly 9), p. 562; ed. and trans. Leofranc Holford-Strevens in
Bonnie J. Blackburn and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Perfect Musician (Practica Musica 3, Krakw, 1995),
669. (At p. 69, n. 2, a better emendation is synapses, i.e. successions.) Andreas Hirsch, Philosophischer Extract
und Auszug aus de Welt-berhmten Teutschen Jesuitens Athanasii Kircheri von Fulda Musurgia Universali in Sechs
Bcher verfasset (Schwbisch Hall, 1662), who translates anything a reasonably bright eleven-year-old ought to
have understood and leaves the rest in Latin, reduces this passage to Componiren ist heutigs Tags gar
gemein / tot fer musurgi, quot phonasci, tot symphonet, quot cantores, so viel Singer / so viel
Componisten (p. 147).
See Quintilian, Institutiones Oratoriae 11.3.19, 22; Epictetus, Discourses 1.4.20. A different usage again in
Glareanus, Dodecachordon, ch. 38, the phonascus invents a tenor melody and the symphonetes composes a mass on
To be sure, a few later Neo-Latin musical writings exist (see IJsewijn, Companion, II, 3213), of which the
most impressive is John Walliss appendix to his edition of Ptolemys Harmonica (Oxford, 1682), 281328, De
446 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
(early 1480s) De imperfectionibus figurarum. C. xi
[I]mperfectibilium figurarum alia patiens tantum: alia agens: et alia agens et
patiens dicitur.
Figura patiens tantum est unica scilicet Maxima: nam a diuersis figuris
multipliciter imperficitur et numquam imperfi[cere] possit quoniam nulla datur
maioris quantitatis figura cui tanquam pars tertia possit numerabiliter applicari.
Hinc duo sequuntur principaliter annotanda: primum quod notula imperficiens
semper est minor sua imperfectibili: alterum quod notula imperfectibilis debet
semper considerari in suo quan[ti]tatiuo accidente perfecto. quod si figurae
fuerint in quantitatiuis acci[den]tibus imperfectis: per punctum tunc possunt aug-
mentari et sic aequipolent perfectioni.
Figura item agens tantum est unica scilicet minima: que cum al[iam] imperficere
possit ab alia nunquam potest imperfici: nam nullum retinet acci[dens] quanti-
tatiuum perfectum.
(1492) De imperfectibilibus figuris
De le figure che pono esser imperfecte accidentalmente vna e dicta patiente et vna
altra e dicta agente e trey son dicte agente et patiente. La maxima e dicta sola
patiente perche po esser facta imperfecta perdendo vna parte sua propinqua zoe la
tertia parte del suo quantitatiuo valore onuero perdendo vna parte remota aut piu
remota aut remotissima la qual parte imperficiente debesse connumerare ala dicta
sua mazore imperfecta ne la diuisione adcio che per lo accidente de la
imperfectione ablatiua non se perda la perfectione de la essentiale quantitade Et
essa maxima non pote fare imperfecta altra figura per che non se da in canto
figura mazore alcuna de la quale dicta maxima habia ad esser parte propinqua
onuero remota. La minima e dicta sola agente per che non ha essentiale quantitade
perfecta che la diuida in trey seminime [sic] po aduncha imperficere ma non esser
(1496) [Bk. 2] De imperfectionibus figurarum. Caput vndecimum.
Imperfectibilium figurarum. Alia patiens tantum. Alia tantum agens: Alia agens
et patiens est. Figura patiens tantum est sola maxima: haec cum a diuersis possit
figuris multimode imperfici: nullam vnquam figuram imperficit: namque
maiorem in quantitate figuram nusquam praecedit aut sequitur in cantilena: cui
possit tanquam pars tertia imperfectibilis applicari. Inde duo sunt generaliter
annotanda. Vnum quidem: notula imperficiens semper minor erit sua imper-
Veterum Harmonica ad hodiernum comparata, on which see Ingemar Dring, Die Harmonielehre des Klaudios
Ptolemaios (Gteborg, 1930), p. xciv; but cf. his English writings in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal
Society, 20 (1698), 804, 24956. See Penelope Gouk, in Stanley Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music
and Musicians, 2nd edn. (London, 2001), XXVII, 42. Thomas de Pinedo, in his edition of Stephanus De urbibus,
i.e. Stephanus of Byzantium (Amsterdam, 1678), included in the index of authors s.v. Timotheus a long
classicizing digression on music theory (pp. 77684), propter exactam cognitionem, quam habeo Harpae
duplicis ordinis chordarum.
Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Mus 142, fol. 11
, transcribed by Bonnie J. Blackburn.
Francesco Caza, Tractato vulgare de canto figurato, sig. [a7]
. The text constantly gives onuero or on
uero for ouuero.
Humanism and the language of music treatises 447
fectibili. Alterum: Imperfectibilis figura semper est in numerositate suae perfectae
quantitatis consyderanda: vel saltem eius pars si quo ad ipsam imperficiatur. quod
et Anselmus in tertia musicae suae dieta his verbis asseruit. Quantitas autem
detractionis est pars tertia mensurae quam ea notat figura a qua detrahitur: sistunt
siquidem mensurae diuisionem in ternario. Est igitur Imperfectio reductio
quaedam tertiae partis ad plus ad suum totum: secundum ternariam eius
positionem prius in ipso consyderatam. Verum dispositis in cantilena figuris
secundum propriam binariae ac imperfectae quantitatis rationem: eas plerumque
certo augmentationis puncto perornant: quo dimidia vniuscuiusque figurae
quantitas superexcrescit: hinc ternariam sectionem acquirunt: ipsi aequipolentes
Figura autem agens tantum est vnica videlicet minima quae etsi duas puta
semibreves in prolatione perfecta imperficiat quoniam ternariam propriae
quantitatis resolutionem ipsa non patitur ab altera numquam potest imperfici.
Figura autem agens et patiens est quae imperficere potest et imperfici.
(1508) [Tertius Tractatus] De la imperfectione de le note mensurate. Capitolo sexto
Nota che tra le figure mensurabile la Maxima in la sua quantita perfecta patisse
diminutione da la sua perfectione per la abstractione de una sua parte propinqua:
quanto ad tutto el corpo suo: et alcuna uolta li e detracta una parte remota: quale
sara parte propinqua de la sua parte propinqua: et tunc sara dicta Maxima
imperfecta quanto a la sua propinqua da la sua parte remota. Ancora se ritroua
imperfecta et diminuta de una parte piu remota: quale sara la tertia parte de la sua
parte remota: et cosi se dira Maxima imperfecta quanto ad una sua parte remota.
Item se ritroua diminuta per la abstractione de una sua parte remotissima: et tunc
dicta Maxima se dice imperfecta quanto ad una parte sua piu remota: et questo
aduiene quando li e abstracta una sola Minima in consyderatione de la prolatione
perfecta. La Maxima adonque e sola patiente in questa consideratione de
imperfectione: per che non se da nota magiore de la quale sia tertia parte: et la
Minima e solamente agente: per che non se diuide in trey parte aequale.
(147980) [Bk. 5] De interuallis quindecim cordarum. C. 3.
Quindecim cordarum superius dispositarum interualla nunc discernenda sunt:
Proslambanomenos enim prima est cunctis grauior. Secunda autem hypate-
hypaton quae interpretata est grauissima grauissimarum quod nomen iure sibi
competebat ante superadditionem proslambanomenos cum tunc esset prima
grauior/ nunc vero cum sit altior tono quam prima attributum sibi primum
nomen retinuit. | Tertia est paripatehypaton intensa ab hypatehypaton solo minore
(1492) [Bk. 5] De Interuallis quindecim cordarum Capitulum Tertium
Quindecim cordarum superius dispositarum diastemata seu interualla necessario
Practica Musice, sig. bb2
Angelicum ac Diuinum Opus Musice, sig. [F4]
British Library, MS Hirsch IV, 1441, fol. 45
, transcribed by L. A. Holford-Strevens. In Franchinus
Gaffurius, Theoricum Opus Musice Discipline the quoted sentences are identical (accidentals apart) save that
attributum sibi primum has become primum sibi attributum.
448 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
nunc distinguenda sunt: Proslambanomenos enim prima est coeteris grauior.
Secunda autem Hypatehypaton quae interpretata est grauissima grauissimarum
quod nomen iure sibi competebat antequam Proslambanomenos corda super-
adderetur: cum tunc esset prima grauior: nunc uero quanquam acutior sit tono a
prima: primum sibi attributum nomen retinuit. Tertia est Parhypatehypaton quae
solo minore semitonio ab hypatehypaton intentione recedit.
(1518) De Interpretatione quindecim chordarum perfecti systematis Caput quartum.
Post primum illud Mercurii tetracordum nonnulli reliquas chordas ad epta-
chordum usque texuerunt: cuius quidem septem chordarum lyrae edoctus ab ipso
Mercurio Orpheus nullum studiose memorandum facinus apposuit: Inde antiqua
illa septem chordarum lyra ni Pythagoras in ipsa (ut reliquis) studiosus operam
nauasset ad nostra forte usque tempora peruenisset. Is enim octauam adiecit
chordam ad specialem diapason systematis perfectionem tetrachorda in
eptachordo inuicem coniuncta disgregans. Verum cum nonnulli ut primo quinti
theoricae memoraui reliquas ad quintamdecimam usque superposuerint chordas:
pythagoras ipse harmonicam scientiam artificio utrinque disponens ac quousque
cantus melodicus in acutius intendi: rursusque in grauis remitti posset anima-
duertens: eam quae in acutius diuertebatur neten hyperboleon: quod ultimum
significet: atque hucusque melodice possit intendi: uocitauit. Quae uero in grauis
Proslambanomenen: quae cum sonum efficiat grauissimum: non modo sonus
huiusmodi ad melodiam primus assumitur: uerum et ad hunc usque locum uox
pariter melodice in grauius remissa cessat. Vel ut Alii asserunt teste Briennio
proslambanomene nuncupatur quod nullius tetrachordi sit particeps.
secus enim assumitur ob diapason consonantiam quae in medio est: toniaeam
habens ab hypate hypaton proportionem: quam et Mese habet ab paranese: Ipsam
namque assumptam uocant. Secundam uero Hypaten hypaton quasi primam et
grauissimam primi et grauioris tetrachordi: hypaton quidem ad differentiam
hypates secundi tetrachordi. Horum enim tetrachordorum hypaton scilicet et
Meson: hypate prima et grauissima chorda est. Tertiam Parhypaten hypaton:
parhypaten quidem quod post et iuxta hypaten in acutius est disposita. hypaton
uero ad differentiam parhypates secundi tetrachordi. Quemadmodum enim
horum tetrachordorum prima et grauissima chorda hypate appellata est ut nomen
sit consequens rei: eodem modo secunda ipsa in acutius ordinata parhypate
uocitatur. nec in grauius quidem iuxta hypaten eodem uocabulo posset deduci
quoniam hypate (ut dictum est) grauissima dicitur grauium: cui nulla cuiusuis
tetrachordi chorda grauior potest substitui.
Theorica Musice, sig. [h5]
See Manuel Bryennios, Harmonics 1.2, ed. G. H. Jonker (Groningen, 1970), 74.1215.
De Harmonia 1.4, sig. [A5]
Humanism and the language of music treatises 449