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Owen Wright

[Avenpace]

(b Zaragoza, north Spain; d Fez, Morocco, c1139). Philosopher, administrator and composer. He spent much of his life, first in Zaragoza and then in Játiva, south Spain, as vizier to various Almoravid governors, and later moved to Fez.

His Kitāb fī al-nafs (‘Book on the soul’) deals with acoustics. He is also reported to have written a substantial treatise on music that could stand comparison with that of al- Fārābī, but this, unfortunately, has not survived. However, his reputation as a composer stayed alive for some considerable time, and his songs are still mentioned by Ibn Khaldūn (1332–1406). He was also a dexterous ‘ūd player. The fullest, if still succinct, account of his achievements is provided by al-Tīfāshī (d 1253), according to whom he studied for several years with female professional musicians (qiyān) and subsequently introduced two important innovations. One resulted in improvements to two of the important song forms, while the other, more general, is intriguingly characterized as a fusion of ‘Christian’ and ‘Eastern’ song. The resulting synthesis was to establish itself as the dominant style in Muslim Spain, effacing that of the earlier school of Ziryāb....

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(b Faversham, Kent, c1175; d Anagni, summer 1244). English friar, administrator and liturgist. He was said to have been educated in the arts in England before studying theology at the University of Paris, where on 12 April 1224 he joined the young Franciscan Order. He was active in the affairs of the order and travelled widely in its service, and seems to have played a part in the establishment in 1229 of the Franciscan school in Oxford that formed the nucleus of the new university there. He was elected minister provincial of England in 1239 and minister general of the Franciscan Order on 1 November 1240. As general he did much to strengthen the institutions of the order. But his importance for the history of music lies in his reform of the Franciscan liturgy. He first (probably in 1243) produced an ordinal prescribing the words and actions of private and simple conventual Masses, known from its opening words as ...

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Owen Wright

[Abū ‘Alī al-Ḥusayn; Avicenna]

(b nr Bukhara, 980; d Hamadan, 1037). Persian philosopher, administrator and physician. Educated in Bukhara, he was a student of such precocity that he had mastered the whole range of traditional sciences by the age of 18. He led an eventful life of fluctuating fortunes as a minister and adviser to various rulers, but enjoyed in his later years a period of relative peace at Isfahan. One of the great intellectual figures of Islam, he became known as Avicenna in the West, where his philosophical and medical works, notably the authoritative Qānūn fī al- ṭibb (‘Canon on medicine’), exerted considerable influence.

Ibn Sīnā’s main contribution to the development of musical theory is contained in the Kitāb al-shifā’ (‘The book of healing’), an encyclopedia in which music is classed as one of the mathematical sciences (quadrivium). His general approach is similar to that of al- Fārābī, but the treatment, while necessarily terser, is sometimes more logical in its organization. The introduction dismisses the doctrine of ethos and discusses the nature of sound as both functional and expressive. The goal of the science of music is defined as knowledge of compositional procedures, and the first of the two main sections, fundamentally abstract and analytical, deals with pitch organization: notes, intervals (defined by ratios and ranked by degrees of consonance), tetrachord species and combinations thereof within the Greater Perfect System. The second is concerned with rhythm and, taking al-Fārābī’s account as its model, provides a schematic outline of possible structures; it is only towards the end that reference is made to those in current use. A briefer third section deals with processes of composition and with instruments; this introduces organological distinctions between, for example, ways of mounting strings or the presence or absence of a reed, and discusses the fretting of the lute. It also includes a valuable list – albeit one not always easy to interpret – of the more important melodic modes....