Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Ancient Music Adapted to Modern Practice

Ancient Music Adapted to Modern Practice

Nicola Vicentino
Translated, with Introduction and Notes, by Maria Rika Maniates
Edited by Claude V. Palisca
Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 560
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Ancient Music Adapted to Modern Practice
    Book Description:

    First published in Rome in 1555, Nicola Vicentino's treatise was one of the most influential music theory texts of the sixteenth century. This translation by Maria Rika Maniates is the first English-language edition of Vicentino's important work.Unlike most early theorists, Vicentino did not simply summarize the practice of his time. His aim was to change how composers wrote and how musicians thought about music.His best-known contribution is the adaptation of the ancient Greek chromatic and enharmonic genera to modern polyphonic practice. But he also expressed the avant garde's position on the relation between music and the subject matter and feelings of a secular or sacred text. He challenged the view that part-writing had always to conform to the rules of counterpoint, asserting that license was permissible in order to express the feelings of a verbal text. In this he anticipated the manifestos of Vincenzo Galilei and Claudio Monteverdi. Maniates' introduction discusses Vicentino's life and work, the sources of his ideas in earlier theoretical literature, and the contemporary humanists from whom he may have learned..

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14622-6
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)

    Vicentino’sL’antica musica ridotta alia moderna pratticais one of the most famous books in the history of music theory and one of the least read. When the International Musicological Society began its series Documenta musicologica,L’antica musicawas among the first treatises issued in facsimile by Barenreiter-Verlag in 1959. The original is relatively rare. At the last count forty-three copies of the 1555 printing have survived in public libraries, only six of them in the United States. Thanks to the facsimile, however, Vicentino is cited frequently in the literature.

    The book holds a unique place in mid-sixteenth-century music. Unlike...

  4. Translator’s Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xi-lxiv)

    Nicola Vicentino dei Vicentini was born in Vicenza in 1511 and died around 1576–77 in Milan. His name and birthplace are recorded in a document concerning his appointment as chapel master in Vicenza in 1563.¹ His date of birth can be assumed from two references in his treatiseAncient Music Adapted to Modern Practice(Rome, 1555): the wood-cut giving his age as forty-four and his assertion that he was thirty-nine 1550. The year of his death, shortly after the plague that ravaged northern Italy in 1575 and again in 1576, is given by Ercole Bottrigari inIl Desiderio(Venice,...

  6. Errata in the Musical Examples
    (pp. lxv-lxix)
  7. Ancient Music Adapted to Modern Practice

    • [Preface]
      (pp. 3-5)
    • Book on Music Theory
      (pp. 6-20)

      [3r] Very diverse, guileless readers, are the opinions of philosophers concerning the origin and goals of music. It is well known that many philosophers discovered many things; however, by searching, calculating, disputing, and likewise opposing each other’s opinion, they have bequeathed uncertainty instead of theory or practice to mankind. Aristoxenus, who depended solely on sense, denied reason, whereas the Pythagoreans, in contrast, governed themselves solely by reason, not sense. Ptolemy more sanely embraced both sense and reason,¹ and his opinion has satisfied many people up to now.

      In this work, however, you will recognize many cases in which reason is...

    • Book I on Music Practice
      (pp. 21-85)

      [7r] Just as the goal of speculative science is the truth of science itself, so the goals of practice are the actions and demonstrations of art.¹ This is why it is now necessary to come to the principles of practice.

      In view of what I found recorded in the collected ancient chronicles, my readers should know that men have always performed music naturally and in various ways.² For as we see and hear with respect to all peoples of the world, each nation has its own accents and distinctive pitch steps.

      When people sing together they find instinctively a certain...

    • Book II on Music Practice
      (pp. 86-135)

      [27r] It seems clear to me that the total makeup of a sweet and harmonious composition consists in its being organized according to three principal methods. But before a composer constructs any composition, he must consider what he plans to build it on.

      The first method requires composers to apply tense or slack steps and leaps¹ either to the subject of the words or else to other ideas.² The second method is not inconsequential: when a composer has arranged the steps and leaps, he should match them with tense or slack consonances and dissonances³ so that the steps and leaps...

    • Book III on Music Practice
      (pp. 136-228)

      [43r] Many celebrated musicians have recorded many rules for music, and almost all have discussed the composition of fourths, fifths, and octaves, as well as how the modes or “tones” (as practitioners call them) are collocated out of these intervals. Nevertheless, I shall not refrain from speaking about some matters already discussed by our predecessors, even though in the Proem to the first book I promised not to write down published rules.¹ In this regard I am certain I shall not be reproved by good practitioners if I restate the occasional known item. Since I shall talk about the formation...

    • Book IV on Music Practice
      (pp. 229-314)

      [72v] Having recorded many diverse matters concerning music practice in the three previous books, I shall now in Book IV treat the clefs and show how they are notated in plainchant and polyphony for two or more voices with major or minor modus and with perfect or imperfect tempus. I shall also discuss the following: perfect and imperfect prolation in perfect and imperfect tempus; minim and semiminim rests and other proportional signs; various ways of beating the measure and the patterns for writing colored and white notes as well as notes that contain tied and free dots; different manners of...

    • Book V on Music Practice About the Instrument Called the Archicembalo
      (pp. 315-444)

      [99r] I have labored for the benefit of rare and exceptional talents in order to give greater encouragement to students of music practice to study not only how to play but also how to learn composing for and singing with the archicembalo—the foremost and perfect instrument, in that none of the keys lacks any consonances. And I have adapted the new practice of chromatic and enharmonic music, facilitated with many examples, some presented in the preceding books and some in this one. Moreover the examples are written so as to be easy for everyone, with explanations chapter by chapter...

  8. Appendix I: Vicentino’s Petition to Venice for a Printing Privilege
    (pp. 445-446)
  9. Appendix II: Diagram of the Keys in One Octave on the Archicembalo. Two Keyboards, Each with Three Ranks of Keys
    (pp. 446-447)
  10. Appendix III: Chart of the Steps from the Comma to the Proximate Major Third
    (pp. 447-447)
  11. Appendix IV: Copy of the Original Warrant Made on the Debate, with the Wager, the Deputation or Election of the Judges, and Other Matters, Etc.
    (pp. 448-450)
  12. Appendix V: Table of the Names of the Keys on the Archicembalo in Descending Order
    (pp. 450-451)
  13. Appendix VI: Table of String Lengths Based on Lemme Rossi
    (pp. 451-452)
  14. Appendix VII: Table of Cents Values for the First Tuning System of the Archicembalo
    (pp. 452-453)
  15. Appendix VIII: Table of Cents Values for the Second Tuning System on the Archicembalo
    (pp. 453-453)
  16. Appendix IX: Table of the Major and Minor Triads in the Second Tuning of the Archicembalo
    (pp. 454-456)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 457-474)
  18. Index
    (pp. 475-487)