The "Musica" of Hermannus Contractus

November 2015
240 pages
9x6 in
Eastman Studies in Music
ISBN: 9781580463904
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS020000, MUS006000, HIS037010

The "Musica" of Hermannus Contractus

Revised by John L. Snyder

Edited by Leonard Ellinwood

The renowned treatise on music, by an eleventh-century monk, in a critical edition with annotated English translation, introduction, and detailed indexes.
Long recognized as one of the most important medieval treatises on music, the Musica of Hermannus Contractus is here presented in a newly revised translation, with commentary reflecting the best current scholarship.

A polymath and monk, Hermannus Contractus (1013-54) contributed to the important advancements made in European arts and sciences in the first half of the eleventh century, writing on history, astronomy, and time-keeping devices, among other topics, and composing several chants. His music theory, founded on a systematic treatment of traditional concepts and terminology dating back to the ancient Greeks, is concerned largely with the organization of pitch in Gregorian chant. Hermann's approach stems from Germanic species-based thought, and is marked by a distinction between aspects of form and aspects of position, privileging the latter. He expresses this in terms imported from then-new developments in Italian music theory, thus acting as a nexus for the two traditions. Numerology and number symbolism play significant roles in Hermann's theories, and his critiques of other theorists offer insights into medieval intellectual life. Hermann also uses chant citations and exercises to help his readers apply theory to practice.

John L. Snyder's revised edition of Ellinwood's long-standard 1952 text and translation offers a new introduction, including codicological descriptions of the sources; a critical edition of the Latin text with an annotated English translation on facing pages; appendices detailing the documents pertaining to Hermann's life, his citations of plainsong, and his original diastematic notation system; and greatly expanded indexes. Snyder's Musica will serve as the standard version of this major historical document for years to come.

Leonard Ellinwood (1905-94) served in the Library of Congress cataloging divisions in music and in the humanities for thirty-five years. He published scholarly works and editions of both medieval music and church music. John L. Snyder is Professor of Music Theory and Musicology at the University of Houston's Moores School of Music.

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Table of Contents

Preface to Leonard Ellinwood's 1952 Edition
Preface to the Second Edition
Variantiae Figurarum
Variantiae Neumarum
Appendix 1: Biographical Documents in English Translation
Appendix 2: Chants Cited
Appendix 3: Hermann's Diastematic Notation
Index Verborum
Index Cantuum
General Index


This new edition of the Music of Hermannus Contractus (or Herman of Reichenau) is very welcome. Snyder's introduction deals comprehensively with Herman's life and the content of his treatise as well as its influence on later authors. The manuscripts are fully described and their relationship discussed...The edition is enhanced by the end-matter, which includes variant readings of several diagrams and of all the neumed chant quotations. MUSIC & LETTERS [John Caldwell]

This new edition is a welcome addition to any library and will surely eclipse Ellinwood's older edition as a standard reference for Hermann studies, and for medieval musicology, from this point forward. FRANCIA-RECENSIO [Karen M. Cook]

One of the most important eleventh-century music treatises written north of the Alps. A substantial introduction [by Snyder] gives a solid overview of the contents of the treatise and of its background-principally Boethius, the Musica enchiriadis, and Bernon de Reichenau. The fragment now in Kassel [and here incorporated for the first time] comes from a lineage distinct from that of the two complete manuscripts and often gives better readings for the diagrams. Three appendixes complete the edition. REVUE DE MUSICOLOGIE [Christian Meyer]

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