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date: 23 October 2019

Engelbert of Admontlocked

  • Andrew Hughes

Extract

(bc1250; d 1331). Austrian theorist. A Benedictine monk of Admont, he studied at Prague (1271–4) and then at Padua (at the university and the Dominican school of theology). After 1285 he probably became Abbot of St Peter’s, Salzburg, and from 1297 to 1327 he was Abbot of Admont. His De musica (ed. in Enrstbrunner: Der Musiktraktat) was obviously written to improve the musical knowledge of liturgical singers and their teachers. It draws on a collection of well-known treatises (including works by Guido of Arezzo, Boethius and Isidor), surveying traditional music theory and terminology and explaining it in terms influenced by Aristotelian thought; yet, despite its didactic purpose, there is a strange discrepancy between the simple explanations of basics and the high level of presupposed philosophical knowledge.

Englebert divided De musica into a theoretical part (parts I and II) and a part concerned ‘more with the practice’ of music (parts III and IV). Part I presents definitions of music and sound, and the various nomenclatures used by earlier authors; part II explains the proportions of intervals and their species in relation to the diatonic context. Part III is concerned with ‘ars solfandi’, describing the solmization system in detail and prepairing, in its explanation of the tetrachord system of the Reichenau theorists, the doctrine of the eight ‘toni musici’. Part IV, the main subject of which is plainchant, contains chapters conveying general concepts and the musical thinking of Englebert, for example the application of the Aristotelian terms ‘motus naturalis’ and ‘motus violentus’ to music. The work culminates with the last six chapters, his teaching on the ‘distinctiones’ in plainchant, in which he explains the necessity of structure in music and of singing with the natural requirements of perception....

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