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date: 22 August 2019

Ars Antiqua [Ars Veterum, Ars Vetus] (Lat.: ‘old art’)locked

  • Gordon A. Anderson
  • , revised by Edward H. Roesner

Extract

[Ars Veterum, Ars Vetus] (Lat.: ‘old art’)

A term used by a group of writers, mostly active in Paris in the early 14th century, to distinguish the polyphony and notation of the immediate past from the new practice of their own time, the Ars Nova (Ars Modernorum), especially that associated with Philippe de Vitry, Johannes de Muris and their circle in the 1310s and 20s. (The word ‘ars’, as understood in the Middle Ages, translates the Greek word technē, a ‘technique’ or ‘craft’, and has no aesthetic connotations.)

Among music theorists, the champion of the Ars Antiqua was Jacobus of Liège, who in his encyclopedic Speculum musice (1320s) upheld the authority of Franco of Cologne, Magister Lambertus (whom he called ‘Aristotle’) and Petrus de Cruce, and while criticizing the moderns defined the main virtues of the old practice: (1) modern composers wrote only motets and chansons, neglecting other genres such as organum, conductus and hocket (CSM, iii/7, p.89); (2) modern composers used a multiplicity of imperfect mensurations alongside perfect ones in their work, whereas the old practice, following Franco and Lambertus, adhered exclusively to perfection (CSM, iii/7, pp.86–8); (3) the moderns divided semibreves into smaller values, perfect and imperfect groups of minims and semiminims, whereas the followers of the Ars Antiqua divided breves only into semibreves in perfect mensuration, holding that the semibreve was indivisible (CSM, iii/7, pp.35–6, 51–3); (4) as a consequence, paradoxically, the rhythmic language used by the moderns was much more limited and inflexible than that of the adherents to the old practice (CSM, iii/7, pp.38–9); (5) the moderns engaged in a great deal of experimentation with notation, resulting in an inconsistent practice, whereas the followers of Franco had a clear and established tradition for notating their music (CSM, iii/7, pp.51–3); (6) the moderns indulged too much in quirky and capricious rhythmic movement,...

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