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The Renaissance Reform of Medieval Music Theory

medieval music theoryby Stefano Mengozzi, 2010 Cambridge University Press, Post-Graduate                                                

 

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Author: Stefano Mengozzi

First published: 2010

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

ISBN: 978052188415

Level: Post-graduate

Pages: 285

Our Rating: starstarstar greystar greystar grey

 Contents:

  • Guidonian Solmization in Music Theory and Practice
  • Reforming the Music Curriculum in the Age of Humanism

Review:

Not for the faint-hearted! Mengozzi's scholarly treatise is an academic argument against the prevailing theory that Medieval music theory was built around a system which used a short, six-note scale as the basis for composition, rather than the octave-based scale that we know today. Current theories were built up from various historic sources, including the semi-famous "Guidonian Hand", which talk of six-note scales which form modes

Mengozzi argues that there is, in actual fact, little evidence in such a theory, and that by isolating the scale into these six notes contemporary music theorists were probably just trying to simplify things for the students of their day. He finds no evidence that the octave was not the basic musical unit, as it still is.

This book was a big disappointment for me, because it is written in such an impenetrable academic style. It would certainly win no prizes from the Plain English Society! While the subject of Medieval music theory is most certainly not everyone's cup of tea, it is something which fascinates me, but reading this book was a painful chore and I did not make it through to the end, I confess. A sample sentence: "One may observe that just as the doctrine of hexachordal affinity observed by Guido was a function of the heptachordal nature of the gamut, in Hermannus the significance of the major sixth for modal recognition is a direct consequence of the structural role of the species: it is the chordae principales of the four modal maneriae (i.e. the four finals and their confinals within the double octave) that "establish" (declarant, conficiunt) each of the four distinct tonal patterns that may be neatly enclosed, post facto, within the major sixth. Yes, that was just one sentence! It is a book full of sentences which are so long, you have forgotten how they started before you get to the end and have to start them again. 

Not recommended for mere mortals. Suitable only for those studying music theory at a doctorate level.

 

 

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