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In the second half of the fourteenth century, the Italian music theorist Johannes Vetulus de Anagnia wrote a treatise named Liber de musica. Extraordinarily complex and replete with theological digressions, this work has to date remained little understood. Examining Liber de musica through the lenses of practice and philosophy sheds new light on this enigmatic text. Vetulus’s theory is in certain respects innovative, but in others it is conservative. Vetulus theorised a unique but impractical system of mensural divisions that synthesises and exhausts some of the central conceptual principles of contemporaneous performance. He makes sense of these divisions within a Platonist intellectual framework that reimagines Trinitarian theological concepts in a musical context. Approaching this treatise as far as possible on its own terms reveals that Vetulus developed a symbolic epistemology of music in which a mutual reciprocity could emerge between the tripartite structures of music, nature and the divine.
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