2/23/10

Music Theorist of the Day!

Today's Music Theorist of the Day is Heinrich Glarean (1488-1563)!

Figure 1: As well as being mentally taxing, thinking about modes instills an unfortunate aversion to hairbrushes.

Glarean bucked the centuries-old trend of thinking about musical modes as eight in number, as the reader no doubt knows from their familiarity with the Guidonian hand. Right?

Figure 2: Which assumes the reader is a sixteenth-century choirboy.

Finals on D, E, F, and G were posited to exist each in their authentic and plagal forms. The distinction between authentic and plagal modes with the same final, of course, was the addition of a fourth (diatesseron) above or below the fifth (diapente) defining the mode. This systemization held from (at least) Guidonian thinking until the early 16th century (for example, Vanneaus' Recatetum de musica aurea (Rome, 1533)).

Glarean, though, began to think of the octave (diapson) as a unit instead of the sum of a fourth and a fifth. This insight, coupled with a dire misunderstanding of Greek modal theory* and (panicked) Catholic thinking during the Reformation** led him to posit a system of 12 (!) modes in his Dodecachordon (1547).

In his taxonomy, every diatonic note except B (owing to the false fifth) could be a final, with corresponding authentic and plagal modes for each. Thusly the number of modes leapt dramatically in his conception from 8 to 12 (!), which added the now-familiar Ioninian and Aeolian modes known to today's music students.

I knew you were wondering.

**SUPER HAPPY BONUS MODAL THEORY MNEMONIC!**

"But, Sator Arepo," you're thinking, "how will I ever memorize up to and including seven Latin words?"

Never fear!

Today we know the "church" modes and their finals (ending notes) including the more-or-less never-used Locrian mode as:

Ionian (c)
Dorian (d)
Phrygian (e)
Lydian (f)
Mixolydian (g)
Aeolian (a)
Locrian (b)

Say what?

So just remember this:

I
Don't
Piss;
Like,
My
Ass
Leaks

Thanks, conservatory education!


Notes:

* See Palisca, "Mode Ethos in the Renaissance" in Essays in Musicology, ed. Lockwood, pp. 126-39 (1990) .
** See Judd, "Renaissance Modal Theory" in Cambridge History of Western Music Theory, ed. Christiansen, p. 388, Cambridge University Press (2002).

5 comments:

Sator Arepo said...

Also: he was Swiss, FWIW.

cereal_music said...

I don't piss liquid. My ass leaks.

At least that's how I remember the saying.

Anyway, thought of the day: why is it that the two modes that don't have finals become the most commonly used modes of the 17-19th centuries? Is it because the other modes were over-used? Phrygian is making a comeback, I hear.

AnthonyS said...

Insightful dominatrices provide lasting masochistic ass lesions.

Clearly, Aeolian's "a" must be "ass" in all constructions. Clearly.

Gustav said...

I find this much easier to memorize:

Insolubilized devolatilizations pelletization levoversion micropaleontologists anticentralization lairizing

Sator Arepo said...

Ian
Doesn't
Pretend-
Likes
Men
A
Lot