Guido of Arezzo
GUIDO OF AREZZO
Medieval music theorist whose principles prepared the foundation of European music notation; b. Arezzo?, Italy, c. 992; d. probably in the Camaldolese monastery at Avellana, 1050. Guido was educated in the Benedictine abbey at Pomposa, where he evidently made great use of the music treatise of Odo of Saint-Maur des Fossés
(see M. Gerbert, Scriptores ecclesiastici de musica sacra potissimum, 1:265–284 and 1:251–264), and also must have developed his principle of staff notation. He left there c. 1025 when fellow monks resisted his musical innovations; whereupon Theobald, Bishop of Arezzo (1023–36), appointed him a teacher at his cathedral school and commissioned him to write the Micrologus de Disciplina Artis Musicae (c. 1025–26; also versified by Guido for teaching purposes before 1028 under the title Regulae Rhythmicae ). Theobald also arranged in 1028 for Guido to give Pope John XIX (1024–33) an Antiphonary that he had at least begun in Pomposa. This book (no longer in existence) was probably written in staff notation, and it was accompanied by an explanatory preface to the new method, preserved as the Aliae Regulae (c. 1020). The prologue to the Dialogus of Odo of Saint-Maur (Gerbert, op. cit., 1:251) is probably also by Guido (Oesch, 73–76).
Guido must have returned to Avellana from Rome, where he probably wrote in 1029 the Epistola de ignoto cantu to Brother Michael, his friend in Pomposa, and also perhaps a letter condemning the simony of Abp. Heribert II of Milan. No other works attributed to Guido may be regarded as genuine (Gerbert, op. cit., 2:33, 37, 50; Scriptorum de musica medii aevi nova series, 2:78, 110, 115). Guido himself and the Camaldolese brought about his future fame, which may be assessed not only in the triumph of his new method of notation, but also in the fact that no medieval treatise is preserved in so many sources spread over so wide an area as the Micrologus. Moreover, the oldest MSS notated in this way are of the 11th century and from Camaldolese houses—e.g., MS Florence, Biblioteca Laurenziana, 158 (from Struma), and MS Vallombrosa 247 (from Vallombrosa).
In the new method there are two fundamental innovations: the construction by thirds of the system of lines; and the use of letters as clefs and/or the coloring of certain lines (yellow for C, red for F), indicating with reference to the other lines the position of the semitone. The two innovations together mark the fulfillment of the principle of diastematic writing. Both elements—letters and lines—antedated Guido, but their combination in this manner made possible the first unambiguous notating of neumes. At the same time Guido was developing a second epoch-making technique—that of solmization (see Harvard Dictionary of Music 690–691), which enabled one to sing a notated song correctly from the written page through use of the syllables ut, re, mi, fa, sol, and la (described in Epistola de ignoto cantu ). In a musical setting, not found earlier than Guido, of the hymn to St. John Ut queant laxis … (by paul the deacon?, 8th century), the first syllables of each of the half-lines of the poem fall on tones c, d, e, f, g, and a, in order. This hymn is intended as a mnemonic aid, enabling students to become familiar with the sound (proprietas ) of the tones of the hexachord, so that as they read neumes on the staff they would grasp the arrangement of whole and half tones within a section of a melody. There is nothing to suggest that Guido used this mnemonic melody in connection with the principle of solmization (mutation), which appeared at the end of the 11th century (see Oesch, "Hexachord," Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 6:349; Harvard Dictionary of Music 330–332). Hence the "Guidonian hand" came into use only after Guido's death. Neither Aribo Scholasticus (c. 1078) nor Johannes Affligemensis (c. 1100), both of whom discuss Guido, refer to solmization.
Bibliography: h. oesch, Guido von Arezzo (Bern 1954). j. smits van waesberghe, De musico-paedagogico et theoretico Guidone Aretino (Florence 1953); "The Musical Notation of G. of A.," Musica Disciplina (Rome 1947–), Yearbook of the History of Music, American Institute of Musicology, 5 (1951) 15–53; "G. of A. and Musical Improvisation," ibid., 55–63; Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949–) 5:1071–78. w. apel, Gregorian Chant (Bloomington, Ind. 1958). g. reese, Music in the Middle Ages (New York 1940). p. h. lÁng, Music in Western Civilization (New York 1941). m. a. leach, "His ita perspectis: A Practical Supplement to Guido of Arezzo's Pedagogical Method," Journal of Musicology, 8 (1990) 82–101. c. v. palisca, "Guido of Arezzo," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. s. sadie, v. 7 (New York 1980) 803–807. d. m. randel, ed., The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (Cambridge 1996) 339–340. n. slonimsky, ed., Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (8th ed. New York 1992) 682–683.