A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Dodecachordon

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

DODECACHORDON (original Greek title, ΔΩΔΕΚΑΧΟΡΔΟΝ, from δωδέκα twelve, and χορδη, a string). A work, published at Basle, in September, 1547, by the famous mediæval theorist, now best known by his assumed name, Glareanus, though his true patronymic was Heinrich Loris, latinized Henricus Loritus. [See vol. i. p. 598.]

The Dodecachordon owes its existence to a dispute, which, at the time of its publication, involved considerations of great importance to Composers of the Polyphonic School; and the clearness and logical consistency of the line of argument it brings to bear upon the subject render it the most valuable treatise on the Ecclesiastical Modes that has ever been given to the world.

In the time of S. Ambrose, four Modes only were formally acknowledged. S. Gregory increased the number to eight. Later students, finding that fourteen were possible, advocated the use of the entire number. In the opening years of the 9th century, the controversy grew so hot, that the question was referred to the Emperor Charlemagne, who was well known to be one of the most learned Musicians of his age. Charlemagne, after long deliberation, decided that twelve Modes were sufficient for general use: and his dictum was founded on an indisputable theoretical truth; for, though fourteen Modes are possible, two are rendered practically useless, by reason of their dissonant intervals.

The decision of Charlemagne was universally accepted, in practice; but, in process of time, an element of confusion was introduced into the theory of the Modes, by certain superficial students—prototypes of the party which now tells us that 'Plain Song ought always to be sung in unison'—who, unable to penetrate beyond the melodic construction of the scale, imagined that certain Modes were essentially identical, because they corresponded in compass, and in the position of their semitones. It is quite true that every Authentic Mode corresponds, in compass, and in the position of its semitones, with a certain Mode taken from the Plagal Series; just as, in the modern system, every Major Scale corresponds, in signature, with a certain Minor Scale. But, the intervals in the two Modes are referable to, and entirely dependent upon, a different Final; just as, in the Relative Major and Minor Scales, they are referable to a different Tonic. For instance, the Authentic Mixolydian Mode corresponds, exactly, in its compass, and the position of its semitones, with the Plagal Hypoionian Mode. The range of both lies between G and g; and the semitones, in both, fall between the third and fourth, and the sixth and seventh degrees. But, the Final of the Mixolydian Mode is G, and that of the Hypoionian, C; and, though Palestrina's Missa Papæ Marcelli, written in the Hypoionian Mode, ends every one of its greater sections with a full close on the Chord of C, and bases every one of its most important Cadences on that Chord, there are critics at the present day who gravely tell us that it is in the Mixolydian Mode, simply because the range of its two Tenors lies between G and g. Glareanus devotes pages 73–74 of the Dodecachordon to an unanswerable demonstration of the fallacy of this reasoning; and all the great theorists of the 16th century are in agreement with him, in so far as the main facts of the argument are concerned, though they differ in the numerical arrangement of their 'Tables.' To prevent confusion on this point, it is necessary to consider the system upon which these 'Tables' are constructed.

The most comprehensive and reasonable system of classification is that which presents the complete series of fourteen possible Modes, in their natural order, inserting the impure Locrian and Hypolocrian forms, in their normal position, though rejecting them in practice. The complete arrangement is shown in the following scheme.

I. Dorian.
II. Hypodorian.
III. Phyrgian.
IV. Hypophrygian.
V. Lydian (or Hyperphrygian).
VI. Hypolydian.
VII. Mixolydian (or Hyperlydian.)
VIII. Hypomixolydian.
IX. Æolian.
X. Hypoæolian.
XI. Locrian (or Hyperæolian).
XII. Hypolocrian (or Hyperphrygian).
XIII. Ionian (or Iastian).
XIV. Hypoionian (or Hypoiastian).

The system most widely opposed to this recognises the existence of eight Modes only—Nos. I–VIII in the foregoing series; and represents the Æolian, Hypoæolian, Ionian, and Hypoionian forms, as replicates of Modes II, III, VI, and VII—or, still less reasonably, Modes I, II, V, and VI with the substitution of different Finals.

In all essential points, Glareanus follows the first-named system, though he describes the Ionian, and Hypoionian forms, as Modes XI and XII, and simply mentions the rejected Locrian and Hypolocrian scales by name, without assigning them any definite numbers.

Zacconi's Table agrees with that of Glareanus. Fux generally describes the Modes by name, and takes but little notice of their numerical order. In later times, the editors of the Mechlin Office-Books have endeavoured to reconcile the two conflicting systems by appending double numbers to the disputed Modes. Dr. Proske, in his 'Musica divina,' follows the first-mentioned system, describing the Ionian and Hypoionian Modes, as Nos. XIII and XIV; and the same plan has been uniformly adopted in the present Dictionary. The want of an unvarying method of nomenclature is much to be [1]regretted; but it no way affects the essence of the question, for, since the publication of the Dodecachordon, no one has ever seriously attempted to dispute the dictum of Glareanus, that twelve Modes, and twelve only, are available for practical purposes; and these twelve have found pretty nearly equal favour among the Great Masters of the Polyphonic School.[2]

The Dodecachordon enters minutely into the peculiar characteristics of each of the twelve Modes; and gives examples of the treatment of each, selected from the works of the best Masters of the early Polyphonic School. The amount of information it contains is so valuable and exhaustive, that it is doubtful whether a student of the present day could ever succeed in thoroughly mastering the subject without its assistance.

The text, comprised in 470 closely printed folio pages, is illustrated by 89 Compositions, for two, three, and four voices, with and without words, printed in separate parts, and accompanied by directions for deciphering the Enigmatical Canons, etc., by the following Composers:—Antonio Brumel (4 compositions); Nicolaus Craen (1); Sixt Dietrich (5); Antonius Fevin (1); Adam de Fulda (1); Damianus à Goes Lusitanus (1); Heinrich Isaac (5); Josquinus Pratensis [Josquin des Près] (25); Listenius (1); Adam Luyr Aquægranensis (1); Gregor Meyer (10); Joannes Mouton (4); Jac. Obrechth (3); Johannes Okenheim (3); De Orto (1); Petrus Platensis [Pierre de la Rue] (3); Richafort (1); Gerardus à Salice Flandri (1); Lutvichus Senflius (3); Andr. Sylvanus (1); Thomas Tzamen (1); Jo. Vannius [Wannenmacher] (1); Vaqueras (1); Antonius a Vinea (1); Paulus Wuest (1); Anonymous (9).

The first edition of the ΔΩΔΕΚΑΧΟΡΔΟΝ was printed at Basle, in 1547. A second edition, entitled 'De Musices divisione ac definitione,' but with the same headings to the chapters, is believed to have been printed, at the same place, in 1549.[3] A small volume, entitled 'Musicæ Epitome, sive Compendium, ex Glareani Dodecachordo,' by J. Wonnegger, was published at Basle in 1557, and reprinted in 1559. The original work is now very scarce, and costly; though, happily, less so than the 'Syntagma' of Prætorius, or the 'Musica getuscht und ausgezogen' of Sebastian Virdung. Copies of the edition of 1547 will be found at the British Museum, and the Royal College of Music; and the British Museum also possesses the first edition of Wonnegger's 'Epitome.'

[ W. S. R. ]

  1. It will be noticed that the variations affect the later Modes only. The first eight Modes—the only Modes that can consistently be called 'Gregorian'—are distinguished by the same numbers in all systems but one. This exception is to be found in the Table given by Zarlino, who numbers the Modes thus:—I. Ionian; II. Hypoionian; III. Dorian; IV. Hypodorian; V. Phrygian; VI. Hypophrygian; VII. Lydian; VIII. Hypolydian; IX. Mixolydian; X. Hypomixolydian; XI. Æolian; XII. Hypoæolian. This method is exceptionally confusing, since not one of its numbers corresponds with those of any other system.
  2. Consult, on this point, Baini's 'Life of Palestrina' ('Memorie,' etc.) Tom. ii. p. 81.
  3. See vol. 1. p. 598 a.