A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Micrologus
MICROLOGUS (from the Gr. adj. μικρολόγος, having regard to small things—from μικρός, little, and λόγος, a word; Lat. Sermo brevis, an Epitome, or Compendium). A name, given, by two celebrated authors, to works containing an epitome of all that was known of music at the time they were written.
I. The Micrologus of Guido d'Arezzo is believed to have been compiled about the year 1024. Valuable MS. copies of this curious work are preserved in the Vatican Library, as well as in the 'King's Library' at Paris, and in other European collections. The treatise was printed, in 1784, by Gerbert, Prince Abbat of S. Blasien, in his great work entitled Scriptores ecclesiastici de musica; and, in 1876, Hermesdorff published a copy of the original text, at Treves, side by side with a German translation. Considerable variations occur in the antient MSS.; but full dependence may be placed upon the readings given in the two printed editions we have mentioned. The work is divided into twenty Chapters, some of which throw great light, both upon the state of musical science at the time of its production, and upon its subsequent progress. The first Chapter is merely introductory; the second treats of the different kinds of Notes; and the third, of 'the Disposition of the Monochord,' which the author strongly recommends as a means of teaching Choristers to uing in tune [see Monochord]: and it is worthy of notice, as a chronological 'land-mark,' that Guido here uses the long-since universally rejected division of Pythagoras, which resolves the Perfect Fourth (Diatessaron) into two Greater Tones and a Limma, instead of the truer section of Ptolemy, who divides it into a Greater and Lesser Tone, and a Semitone. Chapter V treats of the Octave, (Diapason), and of the seven letters by which its sounds are represented. Chapters XVIII, and XIX, entitled, De Diaphonia, id est Organi precepta, and Dictæ Diaphoniæ per exempla probatio, are filled with still more interesting matter, and contain a detailed description of the method pursued in accompanying a Plain Chaunt Melody with Discant—here called Diaphonia, or Organum. Earlier authorities had decreed, that, with the exception of the Octave, no intervals were admissible in Discant, but the Perfect Fourth, and its inversion, the Perfect Fifth, used as in the following example—quoted in the Micrologus—in which the Plain Chaunt occupies the middle part:—
But Guido, though he speaks of the Fourth as the most important interval, permits, also, the use of the Major Second, and the Major and Minor Third; and gives the following example of the manner in which they may be introduced:—
Neither in the chapters we have selected for our illustration, nor in any other part of the work, do we find any mention whatever of the Harmonic Hand, the Solmisation of the Hexachord, or the use of the Lines and Spaces of the Stave; nor do Guido's other writings contain any allusion to these aids to Science sufficiently explicit to identify him as their inventor. His claim to this honour rests entirely on the authority of Franchinus Gafurius, Vicentino, Glareanus, Vincenzo Galilei, Zarlino, and other early writers, whose verdict in his favour is, however, so unanimous, that it would be dangerous to reject the traditions handed down to us through so many consentient records.
II. A less celebrated, but scarcely less valuable treatise, entitled Musice active Micrologus, was printed, at Leipzig,—in 1517, by Andreas Ornithoparcus (or Ornitoparchus)—a German Musician, of acknowledged eminence, whose true patronymic, in its mother tongue, was Vogelsang, or Vogelgesang. This work, written in the quaint Latin peculiar to the 16th century, contains the substance of a series of Lectures, delivered by the author at the Universities of Heidelberg, Mainz, and Tübingen; and is divided into four separate books. The First Book, comprising twelve Chapters, treats of the different kinds of Music, of the Clefs, the Ecclesiastical Modes, the Hexachords, the rules of Solmisation and Mutation, the various Intervals, the Division and Use of the Monochord, the laws of Musica ficta, Transposition, and the Church Tones. [See Modes, the Ecclesiastical; Hexachord; Solmisation; Mutation; Musica Ficta; Tones, the Ecclesiastical.]
The Second Book, divided into thirteen Chapters, treats of Measured Music, [see Musica Mensurata], and contains an amount of information even more valuable than that conveyed in Morley's 'Plaine and Easie Introduction,' inasmuch as it is expressed in more intelligible language, and freed from the involutions of a cumbrous and frequently vague and meaningless dialogue. In the Second Chapter of this Book, the author describes eight kinds of notes the Large, Long, Breve, Semibreve, Minim, Crotchet, Quaver, and Semiquaver. The Third Chapter is devoted to Ligatures: and, as the Ligatures in common use at the beginning of the 16th century differed, in some particulars, from those employed in the time of Palestrina, the rules here given are of inestimable value in decyphering early compositions. [See Ligature.]
In the Fourth and Fifth Chapters of the Second Book, the author defines the various species of Mode, Time, and Prolation; and, complaining, as bitterly as Morley does, of the diversity of the signs by which they are represented, [see Mode; Time; Prolation], proceeds to give his readers directions, which will be found exceedingly useful to those who wish to score the works of Josquin des Prés, and other writers who flourished before the middle of the 16th century. The remaining Chapters treat of Augmentation, Diminution, Rests, Points, Proportion, and other matters of deep interest to the student of Antient Music.
The Third Book, disposed in seven Chapters, is devoted to the consideration of Ecclesiastical Music; and, chiefly, to the Accents used in reciting the Divine Office. [See Accents.]
The Fourth Book, in eight Chapters, contains an epitome of the Laws of Counterpoint; and treats, in detail, of the difference between Consonances and Dissonances, the 'General Precepts of Counterpoint,' the nature of different Voices, the formation of Cadences, the 'Special Precepts of Counterpoint,' the use of Rests in Counterpoint, and the different Styles of Singing. On this last point, the author's remarks are cruelly caustic. He tells us that the English carol, the French sing, the Spanish weep, the Italians of Genoa caper, other Italians bark; but 'the Germans, I am ashamed to say, howl like wolves.'It is impossible to over-estimate the value of the information contained in this most instructive treatise. The first edition—of which a copy is happily preserved in the Library of the British Museum—is so excessively rare, that, until M. Fétis fortunately discovered an example in the Royal Library at Paris, a reprint, of 1519, was very commonly regarded as the editio princeps. The edition described by Burney, and Hawkins, is a much later one, printed, at Cologne, in 1535. In 1609, our own John Dowland printed a correct though deliciously quaint English translation, in London; and it is through the medium of this that the work is best known in this country. Hawkins, indeed, though he mentions the Latin original, gives all his quotations from Dowland's version.
[ W. S. R. ]