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       M U S I C          T H E O R Y         O N L I N E

                     A Publication of the
                   Society for Music Theory
          Copyright (c) 1995 Society for Music Theory
| Volume 1, Number 5    September, 1995    ISSN:  1067-3040   |

  All queries to: mto-editor@boethius.music.ucsb.edu or to
AUTHOR: Schubert, Peter N.
TITLE: Review of *Musical Poetics* by Joachim Burmeister.
Translated, with Introduction and Notes, by Benito V. Rivera.
Edited by Claude V. Palisca (New Haven and London: Yale
University Press, 1993).
KEYWORDS: Theory, Renaissance, Rhetoric, Burmeister, Rivera,
Macey, Braun, Haar, Dressler.

Peter N. Schubert
McGill University
Faculty of Music
555 Sherbrooke St. W.
Montreal, Quebec  H3A 1E3

[1] One of the most important items in the history of music theory,
Burmeister's 1606 treatise is at last available in English. Benito
V. Rivera's edition, translation, and extensive commentary make this
volume a model of treatise presentation.  Left-hand pages contain
Rivera's edition of the text and photoreproductions of the musical
examples, diagrams, etc., and the right-hand pages contain the
translation and transcriptions.  Rivera's discursive introduction
briefly sets the context for Burmeister's work, then offers the reader
a fairly lengthy survey comparing *Musica Poetica* with Burmeister's
two earlier treatises (including a table listing all repertoire
examples cited in each of the three treatises, arranged by
figure). Rivera also provides comments on chordal sonorities (li) and
on mode and cadence (liv), and takes the reader on a tour of his own
translating workshop (lix; see also 207), which is especially
interesting and sympathetic. Generally, this book is handsomely produced,
with an incredibly small number of typos; however, the transcription
of part of the chart on p. 60 is missing, and it would be nice if
specific discussions in the 48-page introduction were referenced by
page numbers instead of "See the Introduction, this vol."

[2] Rivera's greatest contribution is the thorough and thoughtful
tracking of the sources of terms from rhetoric treatises. These terms
are found not only applied to the famous figures, but also in
discussions of rhythm, consonance and dissonance, voice-leading,
chromaticism, and mode. It seems that wherever one of these buzzwords
pops up, Rivera is on it, giving us a citation from a Classical or
German rhetorician. He says "The main goal is to recognize the
probable literary allusions in Burmeister's teaching, not to identify
the precise books from which he drew them" (p. xlvii). In some cases
the newly applied terms seem to respond merely to the need for a
"classical-sounding term," as Rivera puts it (p. 21), but some reveal
a new way of thinking about music. *Disparata*, for instance, is the
new category for the sharp (*diezeugmenon*) and flat (*synemmenon*)
signs.  Rivera's commentary and relevant quotation from Cicero show
that Burmeister considers the signs to be like prefixes that change
the meanings of words they are applied to, and whose cancellation
reduces the notes back to their original simple letter-named identity
(p. 27). This represents a step away from hexachordal thinking ("Bfa
sung on E") towards the more modern notion of an "accidental" -- as
opposed to "essential" -- quality of a note.

[3] Two of the "musical ornaments" that receive the most extensive
treatment would in any other treatise be classified as contrapuntal
procedures: *fuga realis* (an imitative point) and *fuga imaginaria*
(canon). Burmeister gives the clearest demonstration I know of the
step-by-step composition of an imitative point (p. 161 ff). He places
the theme statements diagonally in the four voices, then fills in the
blanks (mostly with whole notes, the schematic result of a mechanical
procedure). Strict canon at the unison is also presented in a
mechanical way, "but the procedure is different from that of *fuga
realis*" (p. 189). Here Burmeister suggests composing a melody and
immediately adding "harmonic voices," creating a polyphonic texture in
as many voices as the canon is to have.  (Later he allows that any one
of the voices could be the leader, but he specifies that the
lowest-sounding voice must come in under the first answering voice.)
Laying out the leader diagonally in each of the four voices as he did
for *fuga realis*, Burmeister plucks out other melodies from his
original harmonic combination to use as the various
countersubjects. This didactic method of composing polyphony -- by
pulling apart the voices of a harmonic combination and stringing them
together sequentially -- is occasionally encountered even in our day.

[4] Burmeister's reputation rests on his being the first to use the
word "analysis" in our sense, and on his application of rhetorical
terms to figures or "musical ornaments." These occupy only a little
over a sixth of the treatise, and now we are in a better position to
assess the remainder. One novelty is "The Combination of Consonances
into a Harmony" (pp. 58 ff), that is, what we call major and minor 5/3
and 6/3 chords built up ("conjugated") from the seven natural notes
and Bb. Burmeister notates these using only 12 pitch-class names: C,
C#, D, Eb, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, Bb, and B, so that many chords are
misspelled: a minor 5/3 chord on Bb, for instance, is written
Bb-C#-F. (He marks such misspelled chords with an asterisk and says
they are "rarely used.") In the transcription, Rivera normalizes the
spelling of these chords to reflect triadic function (i.e., Bb-Db-F),
with no comment. Burmeister's omission of pitch-class names Ab, A#,
Db, and D# is of course a matter of tuning, as Werner Braun notes.(1)
Braun also comments on the uniqueness of Burmeister's extension of the
tonal system and his experiment with 6/3 chords: "*Doch dieses
'Kuriosum' fand kein Echo*."(2)

1. *Deutsche Musiktheorie des 15. bis 17. Jahrhunderts, zweiter
Teil, von Calvisius bis Mattheson. Geschichte der Musiktheorie*,
v. 8/II (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1994),
pp. 85-86.

2. Ibid., pp. 156-157.

[5] Other interesting contributions include the observation that the
imperfect consonance in a chord should not be doubled (p. 92); that
the affect of each mode depends on the position of the semitone
relative to the final and the fifth, recalling Glarean (pp. 133-134,
discussed in the introduction, p. lvi); and the notion of "absolute"
and "relative" dissonance (p. 93).  Burmeister's method by which young
composers should emulate the greats (". . . a similar text should be
adorned with the same figure with which the text of that master
composer was adorned" p. 159; see also p. 209) is clearly a
commonplace of Renaissance composition, and deserves more of our
attention as well.(3)

3. See for instance James Haar's essay on Lassus' "*Si bona 
suscepimus*" in *Music Before 1600*, edited by Mark Everist in 
*Models of Musical Analysis Series* (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992),
pp. 154-174.

[6] Some buzzwords are not from the language of rhetoric but from
other musical writings. In his discussion of the ornament called
*noema* (homorhythmic declamation) we find: "This ornament 

. . . is made manifest not from these isolated passages (*non ex
nudis hisce exemplis*), but from the context of the whole piece.
Therefore the whole context must be examined. In other words 

. . . the whole piece (*integra harmonia*) should be sung by the
voices, and then the ornament will reveal itself" (p. 165). From
Rivera's translation the reader might conclude that the "isolated
passages" are the polyphonic sections delimited by the identifying
words, and that preceding and following sections must be
consulted. However, one of Burmeister's predecessors uses the term
*nudus* to mean a type of exordium in which a single voice begins:
"The exordium of a piece is of two kinds: that is, full and
naked. . . . We call the exordium naked when the voices do not all
enter [together] but follow one after the other." (*Est autem exordium
cantilenarum duplex, videlicet plenum et nudum.  . . . Nudum
appellamus exordium quando non [simul] omnes voces prorumpunt sed
aliae post alias ordine procedunt*.")(4) This use of the term suggests
that Burmeister is telling his reader that *noema* cannot be
apprehended from the individual melodic lines (as found in partbooks),
but rather from hearing all the lines together (*integra harmonia*
meaning the vertical, not the durational, totality of the piece).

4. Gallus Dressler, *Praecepta musicae Poeticae*, Magdeburg,
1563, ch. 12. Edited by Bernhard Engelke in *Geschichtsblaetter
fuer Stadt und Land Magdeburg 49-50* (1914-15) 213-50; reprinted
in *Thesaurus Musicarum Latinarum*, available on INTERNET from

[7] Finally, apart from its intrinsic value as an intellectual
"Kuriosum," what use does Burmeister's rhetorical model have for us
today? I think many of his "musical ornaments" are not merely new
names for well-known compositional features we already had perfectly
good names for; several are techniques identified and labeled for the
first and only time. *Metalepsis*, for instance, substitutes the
second phrase (both music and text) of a point of imitation as the
first music sung by some voices. These voices then "turn backward" as
Rivera says, to sing the first and second phrases in order
(p. xxx). This device, which introduces variety early on, may resemble
double fugue, but differs in that there is a "normal order" for the
two themes; thus it deserves a different name. (Other unique terms
include *pallilogia* and *aposiopesis*.) Burmeister was well aware of
the novelty of his terminology, and justified himself with a quote
from Quintilian, who was similarly self-conscious: "Many terms are
derived from Greek. I see no reason why we should reject these except
that we judge ourselves harshly, and therefore we suffer from a
poverty of language." Burmeister continues: "I think that . . . our
ideas about musical matters can aptly, appropriately, and conveniently
be fitted, represented, and matched with such terms and labels"
(p. 237). Hear! Hear! More than authentic antiques, they offer precise
and unique descriptions of things found in music, and may be applied
wherever they seem appropriate, as Patrick Macey has done in his study
of a Josquin motet.(5) We will be grateful for this book for a long
time to come.

5. Patrick Paul Macey, *Josquin's "Miserere mei Deus": Context,
Structure, and Influence*. Ph.D. diss., University of California,
Berkeley, 1985.

[8] Laudatory Poem:
Be glad, students of music theory, who
Ever searched through difficult Latin;
No more must you locate
In Lassus each rhetorical figure --
To you has PIBEPA given not
Only English, but musical examples,
Virtually every term's source in
Rhetorical treatises, and a detailed
Introduction comparing Burmeister's
Various earlier attempts to give new names to the
Elusive means by which composers move our hearts.
Rejoice in this beautiful little book,
And with it stand on the shoulders of giants.

(Petrus Schubertus Montrealensis)


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