Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 1

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Turning to England, Milton tells us, from the Saxon annals, that in 668, Pope Vitalian sent singers into Kent, and in 680, according to the Venerable Bede,a Pope Agatho sent John, the Praecentor of St. Peter's at Rome, to instruct the monks of Weremouth in the manner of performing the ritual, and he opened schools for teaching music in other parts of the kingdom of Northumber­land. Bede was also an able musician, and is the reputed author of a short musical tract in two parts, de Musica theorica, and de Musica practica, seu men-surata; but Burney says, although the first may have been written by him, the second is manifestly the work of a much more modern author, and he considers it to have been produced about the twelfth century, i. e., between the time of Guido and the English John de Muris. There must always be a difficulty in identifying the works of an author who lived at so remote a period, without the aid of contemporary authority, or of allusions to them of an approximate date; and when he has written largely, such difficulties must be proportionably increased. But, rejecting both the treatises on music, if he be the author of the Commentary on the Psalms, which is included in the collected editions of his works of 1563 #nd 1688, sufficient evidence will remain to prove, not only his knowledge of music, but of all that constituted the " regular" descant of the church from the ninth to the thirteenth century. I select one passage from his Commentary on the 52nd Psalm. "As a skilful harper in drawing up the cords of his instrument, tunes them to such pitches, that the higher may agree in harmony with the lower, some differing by a semitone, a tone, or two tones, others yielding the consonance of the fourth, fifth, or octave; so the omnipotent God, holding all men predestined to the harmony of heavenly life in His hand like a well-strung harp, raises some to the high pitch of a contemplative life, and lowers others to the gravity of active life." And he thus continues :—" Giving the consonance of the octave, which consists of eight strings ;"...." the consonance of the fifth, consisting of five strings ; of the fourth, consisting of four strings, and then of the smaller vocal intervals, consisting of two tones, one tone, or a semitone, and of there being Semitones in the high as well as the low strings."b Our great king, Alfred, according to Sir John Spelman, " provided himself of musitians, not common, or such as knew but the practick part, but men skilful in the art itself;" and in 866, according to the annals of the Church of Winchester, and the testimony of many
* As a proof of the veneration In which Bede was held, and the absurd legends relating to him, I quote from a song of the fifteenth century:—
" When Bede had preclid to the stonys dry The my[gh]t of God made [t]hem to cry Amen:—certys this no ]y[_e]!"
Songs and Carols. Percy Soc. No. 73, p. 31.
1 " Sicut peritus cithareda chordas plures tendens in cithara, temperat eas acumine et gravitate tali, ut superiores inferioribus conveniant in melodia, quffidam lemitonii, qusedam unius toni, quedam duorum tonorura differentiam gerentes, alia? vero diatesseron, alia? autem fliapente, vel etiam diapason consonantiam reddentes: ita et Deus omnipotena omnes homines ad coelestis vita
harmoniam prasdestinatos in manu sua, quasi citharam quandam, chardis convenientibus ordinatam, habens, quosdara quidem ad acutum contemplative vitae sonum intendit, altos verb ad active vitas gravitatem temperando remittit."—" ut ad alios camparati quasi diapason con-
sonantiam, qua? octo chordis constat, reddant.....Quo*
autem ad diapente'eonsonantiam, quinque cliordis con-stantem, eligit, illi possunt intelligent qui tantas jam per­fections sunt.....Diatesseron quatuor chordis constans.
.... Per minora vero vocum intervaila qua? duos tonos autunum, vel semitonium sonant .... Sed quia tarn in altisonis quam in grandisonis chordis habetur semi-tonium," &c.—Bedce Presbyteri Opera, vol. 8, p. 1070, fol. Bnsitee?, 1563, oa Colonitc Jgrippintz, vol. 8, p. 90S, foM68S.

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