Franco of Cologne

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Medieval music theorist; fl. 125080. Nothing is known of his life except that he was a papal chamberlain and preceptor of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem at Cologne. The only reference to his compositions is a statement by Jacob of Liège about a three-part motet heard in Paris. The same writer describes Franco as Teutonicus (German), perhaps to distinguish him from an earlier Franco of French birth. His reputation rests on one genuine treatise, Ars cantus mensurabilis (c. 1260), which presents a system of setting down music whereby rhythmical and metrical matters are dealt with clearly, logically, and scientifically. Previous methods had tended to be ambiguous and vague, hindering the development of polyphony. Franco's system found many imitators in Italy, France, and England, and some aspects remained in force until the 16th century. His definitions of discant, hocket, copula, and organum are classics of their kind, combining brevity, accuracy, and pertinent musical illustration.

Bibliography: Texts of treatise in Scriptorum de musica medii aevi nova series, h. coussemaker, 4 v. (Paris 186476) 1:117136, Eng. tr. in Source Readings in Music History, o. strunk (New York 1950) 139159. m. gerbert, Scriptores ecclesiastici de musica sacra potissimum 3 v. (Milan 1931) 3:116, slightly less reliable. g. reese, Music in the Renaissance (rev. ed. New York 1959). h. besseler, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949) 4:688698. s. t. warner, Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. e. blom 9 v. (5th ed. London 1954) 3:478480. f. de colonia, "Ars cantus mensurabilis." in Corpus scriptorum de musica, vol. 18, ed. g. reaney and a. gilles (Rome 1974) 2382. a. hughes, "Franco of Cologne" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 6, ed. s. sadie (New York 1980) 794797. d. m. randel, ed., The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (Cambridge 1996) 280. n. slonimsky, ed. Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Eighth Edition (New York 1992) 569.

[d. stevens]