Music Theory from Boethius to Zarlino: A Bibliography and Guide

Music Theory from Boethius to Zarlino: A Bibliography and Guide

Music Theory from Boethius to Zarlino: A Bibliography and Guide

Music Theory from Boethius to Zarlino: A Bibliography and Guide

Excerpt

The present work is a companion volume to Music Theory from Zarlino to Schenker: A Bibliography and Guide by David Damschroder and David Russell Williams (Harmonologia, No. 4, Pendragon Press, hereafter, MTZS). In essence, the goals of the present volume are similar to that of the previous work: to create a logically organized introduction to the major theorists of the time and a thorough review of the scholarly work about these writers. While specialists in the history of music theory may find new materials in these pages, this work is primarily designed for the non-specialist as a practical and basic introduction to the treatises, people, and scholarship of medieval and renaissance theory.

Music theory from ca. 400 to ca. 1550 differs in several fundamentals ways from theory from ca. 1550 to ca. 1935 (as covered in MTZS). The majority of the theorists covered in the previous volume published their texts using terminology and musical notation familiar to the modern student; they sought to explain the practice of a well-known musical repertoire. This basic framework does not apply to the majority of theorists covered in the present volume, and these differences need to be grasped by the introductory reader of these works if there is to be an appreciation of these theorists and their importance.

Most treatises in this volume were transmitted by hand-copied manuscripts rather than in published volumes. While the introductory reader need not become an expert in the technical problems of manuscript transmission, the student must be conscious of several important differences between hand-copied treatises and published works. There are fewer treatises from the Medieval and early Renaissance eras than from later times when commercial publishing was a viable industry. Works transmitted by manuscripts exhibit a large number of variations and transformations as they were copied by hand. These variations can be of such a large degree that scholars can be in disagreement if two sources represent variations of a single work or are two different treatises by one or two different authors. The texts (and musical examples) are often hard to read, obscure, or erroneous, and many of these works are anonymous, attributed to the wrong authors, or attributed to different authors in different sources. We encourage students to read not only the texts of these treatises, but also whatever contextual information is provided by modern editors (such as introductions, notes, and critical apparati) and the secondary authors to understand the context of the original manuscripts and texts.

Another important difference between the writers in MTZS and those in the present volume concerns the basic musical vocabulary used by the theorists. The essential terminology of music during the Medieval and Renaissance eras was quite distinct from the modern theoretical vocabulary. Many terms are derived from Greek music theory (“proslambanomenos” for the lowest note of the musical range or gamut), non-performance traditions such as mathematics (“sesquialtera proportion” [2:3] for either an interval [a fifth] or a proportional metric relationship), or are used to describe musical . . .

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