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date: 19 October 2019

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

  • Owen Jander

Extract

[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...

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