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Guido of Arezzo
AKA - Guido Aretinus or Guido da Arezzo or Guido Monaco or Guido d'Arezzo
ca. 991 - May 17, 1050? (Both his date of birth and date of death are in question)
The documents discovered by Dom Germain Morin, the Belgian Benedictine, about 1888, point to the conclusion that Guido was a Frenchman and lived from his youth upwards in the Benedictine monastery of St Maur des Fosses where he invented his novel system of notation and taught the brothers to sing by it. In codex 763 of the British Museum the composer of the "Micrologus" and other works by Guido of Arezzo is always described as Guido de Sancto Mauro.
There is no doubt that Guido's method shows considerable progress in the evolution of modern notation. It was he who for the first time systematically used the lines of the staff, and the intervals or spatia between them. There is also little doubt that the names of the first six notes of the scale, ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la, still in use among Romance nations, were introduced by Guido, although he seems to have used them in a relative rather than in an absolute sense. It is well known that these words are the first syllables of six lines of a hymn addressed to St John the Baptist, which may be given here:
In addition to this Guido is generally credited with the introduction of the F clef. But more important than all this, perhaps, is the thoroughly practical tone which Guido assumes in his theoretical writings, and which differs greatly from the clumsy scholasticism of his contemporaries and predecessors.
The most important of Guido's treatises, and those which are generally acknowledged to be authentic, are Micrologus Guidonis de disciplina artis musicae, dedicated to Bishop Theodald of Arezzo, and comprising a complete theory of music, in 20 chapters; Musicae Guidonis regulae rhythmicae in antiphonarii sui prologum prolatae, written in trochaic decasyllabics of anything but classical structure; Aliae Guidonis regulae de ignoto cantu, identidem in antiphonarii sui prologum prolatae; and the Epistola Guidonis Michaeli monacho de ignoto cantu, already referred to. These are published in the second volume of Gerbert's Scriptores ecclesiastici de musica sacra. A very important manuscript unknown to Gerbert (the Codex bibliothecae Uticensis, in the Paris library) contains, besides minor treatises, an antiphonarium and gradual undoubtedly belonging to Guido.
This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
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