Posted in For Project 9 Examples

Project 9 Examples Research, Part 2: Descant, Post-Guidonian Organum, and the Rise of Modal Rhythm

Continuing on from the last post, in the post-Guidonian period, starting around the second half of the 11th century, organum began changing.

Beginning with Ad organum faciendum, we see that organum at the fifth and organum at the fourth were no longer distinguished. Instead, the treatise offers one organum in which fourths and fifths are intermixed. Position of the vox organalis was now above and not below the vox principalis, and the voice-crossing appears more often, unlike the earlier, Guidonian practice when it could only appear if the principal voice goes below the lower pitch limit – what was called organum suspendum. In terms of the melodic shape, not only were parallel and oblique motions combined, without the drones for the latter, but we also see contrary motion being introduced. Because of this mixture of melodic movements, this type of organum may be termed free organum.

While the appearance of the oblique organum was justified by the avoidance of tritones which could occur in the parallel motion of the fourths, the principle behind free organum doesn’t involve the symphoniae (term for consonants, see the previous post). Instead, it is guided by the Guidonian doctrine called affinitas vocum. (Fig. 1)

affinitas.PNG

Fig. 1. The illustration of Guido’s affinitas vocum Continue reading “Project 9 Examples Research, Part 2: Descant, Post-Guidonian Organum, and the Rise of Modal Rhythm”

Advertisements
Posted in For Project 9 Examples

Project 9 Examples Research, Part 1: Descant and the Fuzzy Medieval Terminology – Early Beginnings

In my research about rounds and catches, I wrote a post about the blurry lines in the terminology of those two canonic forms. While reading about descant or discant, I found a similar case, where the meaning of the word changed depending on the historical period, however, in a much more complex way.

In 12th century, discantus, as it was termed in the Middle Ages, appeared as the Latin translation of the Greek word diaphonia, which was until around 1100 synonymous with organum. However, starting from around 1175, the various sections of organum began to be stylistically differentiated, with a strict distinction between descant and organum. (Harvard Dictionary of Music, 1969: 236)

All three of these terms – diaphonia, discantus and organum, illustrate well that when a medieval concept as a whole went through a process of reformulation, its individual terms also underwent shifts of meaning and usage. (Grove Music Online, 2001) Thus, discant would be very hard to define without continual reference to organum and diaphonia – the more complex concepts, themselves being great examples of the shifting terminology.

It is not completely clear how the word organum became associated with polyphony. Considering, after all, that at first, in the Patristic Age, organum was used to refer to any musical instrument (The Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 1999: 480), scholars were under the impression that the polyphonic etymology of organum was in the analogies which can be found between early polyphony and musical instruments, their construction or manner of playing. These analogies include parallel movement of voices and the mixture rank of the organ, long-held notes and an instrumental drone, or between instrumental embellishment and the melismatic vocal decoration. (Grove Music Online, 2001) Continue reading “Project 9 Examples Research, Part 1: Descant and the Fuzzy Medieval Terminology – Early Beginnings”