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Chekker  

Denzil Wraight

(Fr. archiquier, eschaquier, eschiquier; Ger. Schachtbrett; Lat. scacarum, scacatorum; Sp. eschaquer, scaquer)

The earliest term used in archives and other writings to denote a string keyboard instrument. Its exact meaning is still the subject of debate and research, but it is probable that most references are to a clavichord. There appears to be no Italian equivalent of the name; Farmer suggested that it is derived from the Arabic ‘al-shaqira’ and tentatively identified this as a virginal, but there is no supporting evidence. Some writers identified the chekker as an upright harpsichord (i.e. a Clavicytherium), since a letter written to Juan I of Aragon in 1388 referred to ‘an instrument seeming like organs, that sounds with strings’, but the instrument was not named. Galpin (Grove4, suppl.) believed that the Dulce melos described by Arnaut de Zwolle (c1440) was identical with the chekker. However, instruments with hammer action, such as the dulce melos, appear to have been rare, whereas the name ‘chekker’ appears frequently, and there is no evidence to support this identification. Galpin further suggested that the chekker’s name was derived from the fact that the action was ‘checked’, in the sense that the motion of its keys was stopped by a fixed rail; this is unconvincing and could in any case apply to a clavichord, a harpsichord or a virginal. These suggestions can therefore be disregarded....

Article

Howard Mayer Brown

(Ger.)

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 ...

Article

David Fuller

An ambiguous term in English, owing its existence to the fact that it is the literal equivalent of the Latin punctus organi or organicus punctus, the German Orgelpunkt, and the French point d'orgue. Although listed in all musical dictionaries, the English term is usually avoided in practical situations in favour of the more precise ‘pedal’ or Pedal point and Pause or Fermata . Organicus punctus is found as early as Franco of Cologne (Ars cantus mensurabilis, c 1260), who used it for the penultimate note of a tenor at which the regular measure is suspended. Tinctoris (Terminorum musicae diffinitorium, c 1472–3) applied it to the sign of the corona, which by that time was used in various situations where it was necessary for one part to pay attention to the other parts instead of to the beat: on final notes which must be prolonged and released together, in canons, where one part might have to prolong a final note until the other parts have caught up, and in passages of block chords where each note was to be prolonged for effect (e.g. Dufay's ...