To save content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save content items to your Kindle, first ensure firstname.lastname@example.org
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Music theorists labelled the musical art of the 1330s and 1340s as 'new' and 'modern'. A close reading of writings on music theory and the polyphonic repertory from the first half of the fourteenth century reveals a modern musical art that arose due to specific innovations in music notation. The French ars nova employed as its theoretical fundament a new system for arranging musical time proposed by the astronomer and mathematician Jean des Murs. Challenging prevailing accounts of the ars nova, this book presents the 'new art' within the intellectual context of its time, revises the datings of Jean des Murs's writings on music theory, and presents the intersection of theory and practice for a crucial era in the history of music. Through contemporaneous accounts, Desmond explores how individuals were involved in 'changing' music in early fourteenth-century France, and the technical developments they pursued that precipitated this stylistic change.
The moderns' art of music, according to Jacobus, is incommensurable with the art of the antiqui. Chapter 5 examines the philosophical background to the conceptualisation of rhythmic duration in the ars nova. I argue that two metaphysical debates of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries illuminate the differences between Des Murs’s systematisation of mensural notation and the ars antiqua system favoured by Jacobus. Additionally, even though neither Des Murs nor Jacobus actually included any illustrative diagrams in their discussions of musica mensurabilis, I argue that a visually based conceptualisation of how musical notes relate to each other informed Des Murs’s new system. Des Murs theorises musical time as a continuum, where note durations vary by degrees along this line of time. For Jacobus, the forms of musical notes that represent duration can only make sense within a traditional tree-like hierarchy, with each species of note distinct in their name, definition, and essence. An analysis of these opposing ontologies reveals some of the reasons behind the irreconcilable differences between Des Murs and Jacobus.
At the same time (the 1320s and 1330s) that Des Murs was deeply involved, along with a small group of contemporaries, in adapting and implementing the innovative practices of Castilian astronomy for use in Paris, he was also engaged with a group of music theorists and composers, several of whom shared his interest in astronomy in implementing new methods for measuring time in polyphonic music. In this chapter, I consider two aspects of Des Murs’s writings on musica mensurabilis as they relate to his broader professional activity: (1) the implications of the revised chronology of Des Murs’s wider astronomical output for the datings of his music theory treatises; and (2) how the rhetoric articulated in Des Murs’s writings on astronomy, particularly the emphasis on the importance of observation and precise calculation, is also prominent in his work as a music theorist. Des Murs’s career is also illustrative of how the ars nova straddled two worlds: that of the professional (clerk, bureaucrat) working within the courtly environment (and one which prized novelty and subtilitas), and the scholarly environment of the Sorbonne with which Des Murs maintained an association for most of his life.
Chapter 2 analyses the core aesthetic of the French ars nova—its subtilitas (subtlety). Through a close reading of two popular fourteenth-century motets that were cited as examples in theory treatises (Tribum/Quoniam, probably written in the late 1310s, and Apta/Flos, of c. 1350), chapter 2 reveals the distinctions that mid-fourteenth-century writers and musicians made between the subtle art of the moderns and the crude or unrefined manner of the older style. They draw on a long history of writings that characterise subtilitas—some sharply negative, some glowingly positive. Probably the best known in the medieval period were the criticisms of John of Salisbury (c. 1120-1180), who inveighed on the logical subtleties practised by his younger contemporaries. Jacobus echoes the moralising tone of John of Salisbury’s rhetoric. The moderni who were the target of Jacobus’s critique appear to have sought out the aesthetic of subtilitas and the novelties that Des Murs’s new methods for notating duration enabled. The moderni explicitly positioned the delicate subtlety of their compositions against the crudity of the ars antiqua.