Johannes Tinctoris

Johannes Tinctoris

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Johannes Tinctoris was a Flemish composer and music theorist
Music theory
Music theory is the study of how music works. It examines the language and notation of music. It seeks to identify patterns and structures in composers' techniques across or within genres, styles, or historical periods...

 of the Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

. He is known to have studied in Orléans
-Prehistory and Roman:Cenabum was a Gallic stronghold, one of the principal towns of the Carnutes tribe where the Druids held their annual assembly. It was conquered and destroyed by Julius Caesar in 52 BC, then rebuilt under the Roman Empire...

, and to have been master of the choir there; he also may have been director of choirboys at Chartres
Chartres is a commune and capital of the Eure-et-Loir department in northern France. It is located southwest of Paris.-Geography:Chartres is built on the left bank of the Eure River, on a hill crowned by its famous cathedral, the spires of which are a landmark in the surrounding country...

. Because he was paid through the office of petites vicars at Cambrai
Cambrai is a commune in the Nord department in northern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department.Cambrai is the seat of an archdiocese whose jurisdiction was immense during the Middle Ages. The territory of the Bishopric of Cambrai, roughly coinciding with the shire of Brabant, included...

 Cathedral for four months in 1460, it has been speculated that he studied with Dufay
Guillaume Dufay
Guillaume Dufay was a Franco-Flemish composer of the early Renaissance. As the central figure in the Burgundian School, he was the most famous and influential composer in Europe in the mid-15th century.-Early life:From the evidence of his will, he was probably born in Beersel, in the vicinity of...

, who spent the last part of his life there; certainly Tinctoris must at least have known the elder Burgundian
Burgundian School
The Burgundian School is a term used to denote a group of composers active in the 15th century in what is now northern and eastern France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, centered on the court of the Dukes of Burgundy. The main names associated with this school are Guillaume Dufay, Gilles Binchois,...

 there. Tinctoris went to Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

 in c. 1472 and spent most of the rest of his life in Italy.

Tinctoris published many volumes of writings on music. While they are not particularly original, borrowing heavily from ancient writers (including Boethius
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius, commonly called Boethius was a philosopher of the early 6th century. He was born in Rome to an ancient and important family which included emperors Petronius Maximus and Olybrius and many consuls. His father, Flavius Manlius Boethius, was consul in 487 after...

, Isidore of Seville
Isidore of Seville
Saint Isidore of Seville served as Archbishop of Seville for more than three decades and is considered, as the historian Montalembert put it in an oft-quoted phrase, "le dernier savant du monde ancien"...

, and others) they give an impressively detailed record of the technical practices and procedures used by composers of the day. He wrote the first dictionary of musical terms (the Diffinitorium musices); a book on the characteristics of the musical modes; a treatise on proportions; and three books on counterpoint
In music, counterpoint is the relationship between two or more voices that are independent in contour and rhythm and are harmonically interdependent . It has been most commonly identified in classical music, developing strongly during the Renaissance and in much of the common practice period,...

, which is particularly useful in charting the development of voice-leading and harmony
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches , or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic...

 in the transitional period between Dufay and Josquin
Josquin Des Prez
Josquin des Prez [Josquin Lebloitte dit Desprez] , often referred to simply as Josquin, was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance...

. The writings by Tinctoris were influential on composers and other music theorists for the remainder of the Renaissance.

While not much of the music of Tinctoris has survived, that which has shows a love for complex, smoothly flowing polyphony, as well as a liking for unusually low tessitura
In music, the term tessitura generally describes the most musically acceptable and comfortable range for a given singer or, less frequently, musical instrument; the range in which a given type of voice presents its best-sounding texture or timbre...

s, occasionally descending in the bass voice to the C two octaves below middle C (showing an interesting similarity to Ockeghem
Johannes Ockeghem
Johannes Ockeghem was the most famous composer of the Franco-Flemish School in the last half of the 15th century, and is often considered the most...

 in this regard). He wrote masses
Mass (music)
The Mass, a form of sacred musical composition, is a choral composition that sets the invariable portions of the Eucharistic liturgy to music...

, motet
In classical music, motet is a word that is applied to a number of highly varied choral musical compositions.-Etymology:The name comes either from the Latin movere, or a Latinized version of Old French mot, "word" or "verbal utterance." The Medieval Latin for "motet" is motectum, and the Italian...

s and a few chanson
A chanson is in general any lyric-driven French song, usually polyphonic and secular. A singer specialising in chansons is known as a "chanteur" or "chanteuse" ; a collection of chansons, especially from the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, is also known as a chansonnier.-Chanson de geste:The...


Tinctoris was also known as a cleric, a poet, a mathematician, and a lawyer; there is even one reference to him as an accomplished painter.

Tinctoris' Eight Rules of Composition

From his third book on counterpoint

Rule #1 Begin and finish with perfect consonance. It is however not wrong if the singer is improvising a counterpoint and ends with imperfect consonance, but in that case, the movement should be many-voiced. Sixth
Sixth can refer to:* The ordinal form of the number six* Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution* A keg of beer equal to 5 U.S. gallons or 1/6 barrel of beer.* A fraction, such as 1/6-Music:*Interval*Major sixth*Minor sixth...

 or octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...

 doubling of the bass is not allowed.

Rule #2 Follow together with ténor up and down in imperfect and perfect consonances of the same kind. (Third
Third may refer to:*3 , such as the 3rd of something -see also Ordinal number *Fraction , such as 1/3*1/60 of a second, or 1/3,600 of a minute *Third World, economically underdeveloped nations...

 and sixth parallels are recommended, fifth
Fifth is the ordinal form of the number five.Fifth may refer to:* Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as in the expression "Pleading the Fifth"* Fifth column - a political term...

 and octave parallels are forbidden.)

Rule #3 If ténor remains on the same note, you can add both perfect and imperfect consonances.

Rule #4 The counterpointed part should have a melodic closed form even if ténor makes big leaps.

Rule #5 Don't put cadence
Cadence (music)
In Western musical theory, a cadence is, "a melodic or harmonic configuration that creates a sense of repose or resolution [finality or pause]." A harmonic cadence is a progression of two chords that concludes a phrase, section, or piece of music...

 on a note if it ruins the development of the melody.

Rule #6 It's forbidden to repeat the same melodic turn above a cantus firmus
Cantus firmus
In music, a cantus firmus is a pre-existing melody forming the basis of a polyphonic composition.The plural of this Latin term is , though the corrupt form canti firmi is also attested...

 of equally long notes, unless cantus firmus has a repetition in itself.

Rule #7 Avoid two or more consecutive cadences of the same pitch even if cantus firmus allows it.

Rule #8 In all counterpoint, try to achieve manifoldness and variety by altering measure, tempo, and cadences. Use syncopes, imitations, canons
Canon (music)
In music, a canon is a contrapuntal composition that employs a melody with one or more imitations of the melody played after a given duration . The initial melody is called the leader , while the imitative melody, which is played in a different voice, is called the follower...

, and pauses. But remember that an ordinary chanson uses less different styles than a motet
In classical music, motet is a word that is applied to a number of highly varied choral musical compositions.-Etymology:The name comes either from the Latin movere, or a Latinized version of Old French mot, "word" or "verbal utterance." The Medieval Latin for "motet" is motectum, and the Italian...

 and a motet uses less different styles than a mass
Mass (music)
The Mass, a form of sacred musical composition, is a choral composition that sets the invariable portions of the Eucharistic liturgy to music...


Notable writings

  • the first dictionary of musical terms (Diffinitorum musices, c. 1475)
  • an introduction to the elements of musical pitch and rhythmic notation (Expositio manus and Proportionale musices); examples show how rhythmically elaborate extemporization may have been practiced
  • a thorough exposition of the modal system (Liber de natura et proprietate tonorum)
  • Liber de arte contrapuncti – his main exposition of intervals
    Interval (music)
    In music theory, an interval is a combination of two notes, or the ratio between their frequencies. Two-note combinations are also called dyads...

    , consonance and dissonance
    Consonance and dissonance
    In music, a consonance is a harmony, chord, or interval considered stable, as opposed to a dissonance , which is considered to be unstable...

    , and their usage. He devised strict rules for introducing dissonances, limiting them to unstressed beats and syncopations (suspensions) and at cadences.
  • a broad survey of the origins and evolution of music, its theological and metaphysical
    Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

    roots and ramifications, and vocal and instrumentation practice (De inventione et usu musice).

External links