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Howard Mayer Brown


Although it now has only the general meaning of ‘musical instrument’, the word ‘Instrument’ in German used to have the more specific meaning of ‘keyboard instrument’. To judge from the title-pages of late 16th-century German keyboard anthologies by Elias Nikolaus Ammerbach (1571, 1575 and 1583), Bernhard Schmid (1577) and others, ‘Instrument’ then meant ‘string keyboard instrument’ in opposition to organ; the volumes are said to be written in a tablature for ‘Orgel und Instrument’. This interpretation was confirmed by Praetorius, who wrote in Syntagma musicum, ii (2/1619), chap.37, that the Symphony – his collective name for harpsichord or clavicymbalum, virginal, spinet and the like – was generally called ‘Instrument’, a usage he criticized for its ambiguity. Like many other musical terms, however, the word meant various things at various times, and it was not always used consistently. In the 17th and 18th centuries, for example, ‘Instrument’ sometimes referred specifically to the clavichord. At least that conclusion seems warranted from the reference to ‘Instrument, Spinet oder Clavicymbel’ on the title-page of Benedict Schultheiss’s ...



Owen Jander

[mean, mene] (from Old Fr. moien, or meien: ‘middle’)

English term referring originally to the middle part of a three-voice polyphonic texture. R. Brunne’s Chronical of Wace (c 1630) refers to ‘the clerkes that best couthe synge, wyth treble, mene & burdoun’. In discussions of discant, 15th-century theorists (Leonel Power, Pseudo-Chilston) applied ‘mene’ to the part sounding a 5th or a 3rd above the plainchant. In the Mulliner Book ten compositions by John Redford (d 1547) bear such titles as ‘Lux with a meane’; these are three-part keyboard works in which the middle part is ingeniously passed back and forth between the two hands, the notes being written in black to guide the eye. Morley (A Plaine and Easie Introduction, 1597) used ‘mean’ synonymously with ‘altus’, while Campion (A New Way of Making Fowre Parts in Counter-Point, c 1615) and Playford (A Breefe Introduction to the Skill of Musick, 1654...


Mark Lindley

A tuning of the scale in which all 5ths and 4ths are pure (untempered). Pythagorean tuning provides intonations of several types of scale. A series of five 5ths and 4ths includes the pitch classes of the most familiar kind of pentatonic scale; ascending from F♯ the series would comprise the five chromatic notes of the keyboard. A series of seven 5ths ascending from F yields a diatonic scale comprising the naturals on the keyboard; the 3rds and 6ths in this scale, however, differ from their justly intoned equivalents by a syntonic comma, and therefore do not meet medieval and Renaissance criteria of consonance implied by such terms as ‘perfection’ and ‘unity’. When used as harmonic intervals these Pythagorean 3rds and 6ths are likely to be characterized, on an organ Diapason stop for example, by rather prominent Beats; middle C–E or C–A beat more than 16 times per second at modern concert pitch. A series of 12 Pythagorean 5ths provides a fully chromatic scale that is bound to include, however, one sour ...