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English music theory c.1590-c.1690 : the modal systems, changing concepts, and the development of new classification systems

Hauge, P. (1997). English music theory c.1590-c.1690 : the modal systems, changing concepts, and the development of new classification systems. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


The thesis examines the modal classification systems and the changes which lead to the development of new systems during the period c.1590 to c.1690 with particular reference to English music theory. It consists of three parts the first of which considers the English writings on music, their readership, their sources, and the basic ideas for the understanding of the traditional Gamut, solmisation system and hexachordal theory. PART 2 examines the methods employed by theorists wishing to categorise music either according to the 8-mode system or the 12-mode system. By studying Italian and German sources referred to in English writings on music, it is seen that the English theorists deal with the modal classification systems in a similar way. Furthermore, the differences between Morley's popular tract (1597), adhering to the 12-mode system, and Dowland's translation (1609) of the small tract by Ornithoparchus, promoting the 8-mode system, are also discussed. PART 3 begins by tracing the development of a new interpretation and definition of the octave as a circular principle. This leads to the theoretical recognition of the invertibility of intervals. In England, in particular the growing circle of natural philosophers and the Royal Society of London seem to play an important role by asking inquisitive questions. Seeing the octave as a circle (and hence also the Gamut), together with a stronger emphasis on the bass as the fundamental part of a composition, encouraged a new interpretation of triads and inversions. The increasing use of fixed pitches versus relative pitches also influenced the interpretation of transposition. The distinctions essential for a modal classification disappeared because of many of these new concepts. Because of the irregularities of the traditional 8-mode system and the determination to adapt it more closely to musical practice, new 8-mode systems were proposed. However, simpler classification systems were also employed as can be seen in many indices in MSS. These systems indicate the final note either together with the transpositional system (i.e. cantus mollis or durus) or with the third above (major or minor). Albeit the invertibility of intervals was acknowledged in the beginning of the seventeenth century, theorists still adhered to the concept of the senario, strongly promoted by Zarlino (1558). The senario argument led to the pairing of major imperfect consonances in opposition to minor imperfect consonances (i.e. two scale types), thus suggesting that the invertibility of intervals was not recognised. The argument was still used by English theorists and natural philosophers at the end of the seventeenth century. However, the two scales were now not only distinguished by the imperfect consonances but also by whether the seventh degree of the scale was major or minor. Thus the theoretical recognition of the major and minor keys was established.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
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