The Great Art of Consonance & Dissonance.

Requirement III.

On the value of the notes, & the measure of time.

Lest someone who is inexperienced in music encounter any delay in this Musurgical business of ours, we have decided that the value of the little musical notes (which we call metrometric notes in the tables of musarithms) should also be included here.

Since there exists a huge variety of harmonic motions (which can all occur together in one measure of several voices), with some proceeding at a fast pace, others at a slow pace and still others at a moderate pace, it seemed appropriate to the Musurgists, in order to avoid confusion, to ordain a certain sign according to which singers could direct their voice. And since this sign became a sort of rule and carpenters' level for hamonic motions, it was not convenient for it to be motionless; therefore they made it moveable according to the motion of the hand or whatever else was held by the hand as it was raised or lowered which they called ἄρσιν & θέσιν [raising and setting down]. The Italians call it la battuta [the beat], Boethius plausum [a clap], others tactum & mensuram [touch and measure]; we style it Chronometron. And this measuring consists of two parts: one is a setting down, which the ancients called θέσιν, and the other is a raising up which they called ἄρσιν. And these correspond to the motion of blood in the body which Galen names διαστολὴν & συστολὴν [diastole and systole]. And just as one pulse in the veins is made from a diastole & systole, so is one time or a whole measure made from an arsis & thesis [raising and lowering]. The characters of our Chronometer are those musical notes which are commonly used; we place their value here before your eyes at one glance.

Table I.

On the Value of the Notes.

2 1 ½ ¼ 1/16
Value of the Notes
Brevis Semibrevis Minima Semiminima Fusa Semifusa

The first note denotes two measures, the second denotes one measure, the third a half measure, the fourth the fourth part of a measure, the fifth an eight part & the last a sixteenth part of a measure with each decreasing in double proportion from the immediately preceding note. Thus the semibrevis taken twice constitutes a brevis; the minima taken twice constitutes a semibrevis; the semiminima taken twice is a minima; the fusa taken twice is a semiminima; and finally the semifusa taken twice constitues a fusa. Again, sixteen semifusæ, 8 fusæ, 4 semiminimæ, or two minimæ are always equivalent to one semibrevis. This is clear in the following example.

Semi Semifusae fusæ
Fu Fusae
Semi Semiminimae minimæ
Minimae Minimæ Minimae
Semibrevis Semibreves Semibrevis
Perfect Time
Tempus Perfectum
Imperfect Time
Tempus Imperfectum

But in order that these things be better understood, something regarding time must first be pointed out here: musical time is nothing more than a certain & defined quantity of little notes or small shapes contained in one brevis or semibrevis as is clear in the preceding schema. It has a double nature: perfect & imperfect. Perfect time is found at the beginning of a measure and is marked by the character ◯ which indicates that the brevis measure is everywhere perfect, that is, it is equivalent to three semibreves as is the case here on the right. But when at the beginning of a line of music a circle is placed in the middle like this Medius Circulus as appears on the right, then this character indicates that the brevis is imperfect, that is, it is equivalent to two semibreves. But since these things were discussed extensively in the preceding sections, we wanted only to recall to your memory what was said.

On Pauses.

Finally, when not all voices are in motion it happens, then, that they are at rest. Consequently, notes were devised to indicate to the vocalist the amount of time they should be quiet. The Greeks call these notes παύσεις; the Latins changed the name and call them pausas. But since it seems that nothing more is required to understand these things than a synopsis of the pauses, I present one for you here.

Table II.

Pattern of the Pauses.

8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 ¼
Pattern of the Pauses

The lines inserted into the pentagram in this system signify pauses, and the numbers placed on top denote the value of the pauses, that is, how many beats the vocalist is supposed to be quiet. For example, the first marking of the pauses shows a rest of eight beats; the second, seven; the third, six; the fourth, five and a half, & so on to the end. The last marking shows that the rest should last ⅛ a unit of time; the penultimate marking, ¼ a unit of time; the antepenult, ½ a unit of time or a half-beat. But these things are so simple and so well-known even to the greenest tyros that I have decided not to explain them further but only to present them so as to provide some introduction to those who are completely ignorant of music.

Things to be noted about beats.

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