Complete Encyclopaedia of Music/A/Aretina, Guido

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Aretina, Guido, a native of Arezza, in Tuscany, celebrated for his improvements in music, flourished in the eleventh century. He became a monk of the order of St. Benedict, in Pomposa, near Ravenna, and was afterwards made abbot of the convent of the Holy Cross, at Avellano, in the neighborhood of his native city. His new mode of musical notation was suggested to him during the performance of the hymn to St. John, composed in 770 by Paul, a deacon of the church of Aquilia. The reiteration of the words of this hymn, and the frequent returns of ut, re, mi, fa, sal, in, made such an impression upon his mind that it suggested to him the thought of using these six syllables in perfecting an improvement, viz., that of converting the ancient tetrachords into hexachords. This new system, though opposed at its first promulgation, was soon universally introduced, and thus spread the fame of its inventor over all Europe. Aretina was invited to Rome by Benedict VIII., in 1022, and afterwards by Pope John XIX. He was received by this holy father with great kindness ; and upon showing him an antiphony, with the syllables marked according to the new notation, the pope was so much delighted with it, that he refused to stir from his seat till he had learned, by means of it, to sing a verse. On his return from Rome, Guido visited the Abbot of Pomposa, in the Duchy of Ferrara, who persuaded him to settle in the monastery of that place. There he composed a tract on music, entitled "Microlog," which was finished in the 34th year of his age. He published also another treatise, entitled "Antiphonarium ; " but it is in a work entitled, "Argumentum novi Cantus inveniendi" that he has explained his new system of notation. It was Guido Aretina who improved the ancient method of writing music. Formerly, all the notes were placed upon one line, and distinguished by the letters of the alphabet ; but Guido introduced the use of lines and spaces, upon which points were placed instead of the letters of the alphabet. These points were first disposed upon four lines, and afterwards upon five, and from them the term counterpoint is derived. The hymn which suggested to Guido his new method of notation was as follows : -

"UT queant laxis, Re-sonare fibris, MI-ra gestorum, FA-muli tuorum, SOL-ve pollutis, LA-biis reatum, Sancte Joannes."

Guido's method of solmization was preserved in Italy until about the end of the last century, and it is still used by some; but after the rest of the world had adopted a seventh monosyllable, called si, the Italians did the same; and hence the modern scales of the two modes, major and minor. This author had either some well-founded tradition, or some fragment of the Greek music, or else, by means of his studies, and of his labor and genius, he formed three hexachords into a system, which includes in sub-stance the true principle of the Greek music, and that of all ages, for there can be but one.