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Adam von Fulda on musica plana and compositio : De musica, book II : a translation and commentary Slemon, Peter John

Abstract

Adam von Fulda, German musician, composer and teacher, completed his important treatise on music in 1490. While representing a conservative, northern tradition in late-medieval music theory, it also shows some evidence of humanist influence. The treatise is divided into four books which discuss the origins and uses of music, the theory of plainchant, mensuration and notation of rhythm, and proportions, respectively. Thus, throughout this informative work, Adam mixes the practical with the speculative. Although his style of explaining technical matters is clear and succinct, he also engages the reader's interest with his polemical and rhetorical digressions. This dissertation presents a detailed commentary upon Book II of the treatise, on musica plana (plainchant), accompanied by a translation from the Latin. The first two chapters of the dissertation are concerned with the biographical information available on Adam von Fulda, as well as with the format and transmission of the treatise. Three chapters of the dissertation serve as the commentary. Chapter III discusses Adam's treatment of the practical aspects of singing plainchant, including his discussions of the Guidonian hand, the gamut, the naming of pitches, hexachords and mutation (material covered in Chapters 1 to 6 of the treatise's second book). Chapter IV of the dissertation considers the subject of musical intervals as covered by Adam, and the ten rules of composition provided in his Chapters 7 to 12. These rules are perhaps the most interesting and unusual part of Book II, as they go beyond the stated subject of plainchant. Written composition, not just improvised counterpoint, is treated in a manner that anticipates later humanist regard for music as an art. Finally, Chapter V examines Adam's treatment of the modes of plainchant (discussed in his Chapters 13 to 17). A conclusion summarizes Adam's impact on later theorists and the importance of the treatise.

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