Vitry, Philippe de

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Medieval composer and theorist of great originality (also spelled Vitri); b. Vitry (Champagne), France, Oct. 31, 1291; d. Meaux, June 2, 1361. In addition to writing, Vitry served for some time as secretary to Charles IV and Philip VI of France, held several canonries, and eventually became bishop of Meaux. His praises were sung by petrarch and others, yet little of his music has been preserved in comparison with what we have of his nearcontemporary, machaut. Vitry's treatise, Ars Nova (Paris c. 1320), deals with then-current problems of rhythm in a way that characterizes its author as a musician's theorist. His compositions not only bear out his theories but also present the epigrammatic medieval ordo, or rhythmic pattern, in a new and more spacious guise, which in modern times has come to be known as isorhythm. Vitry's motets are not liturgical: the political scene held his interest when he had leisure to compose, so that texts are found on such subjects as the struggle between the Angevins and the Aragonese for possession of Sicily (O canenda vulgo/Rex quem metrorum ).

Bibliography: e. dannemann, Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. e. blom (London 1954) 9:2425. h. riemann, History of Music Theory, tr. and ed. r. h. haggh (Lincoln, Nebr.1962). g. reese, Music in the Middle Ages (New York 1940). l. schrade, "Philippe de Vitry: Some New Discoveries," Musical Quarterly 42 (New York 1956) 330354. d. j. leech-wilkinson, "Compositional Procedure in the Four-Part Isorhythmic Works of Philippe de Vitry and His Contemporaries" (Ph.D. diss. Cambridge University, 1983); "The Emergence of ars nova," The Journal of Musicology 13 (1995), 285317. d. m. randel, ed., The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music 953 (Cambridge, Massachusetts 1996). e. h. sanders, "Philippe de Vitry" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 20, ed. s. sadie (New York 1980) 2228. n. slonimsky, ed., Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Eighth Edition (New York 1992) 1970. a. wathey, "The motet texts of Philippe de Vitry in German humanist manuscripts of the fifteenth century," in Music in the German Renaissance: Sources, Styles, and Contexts, ed. j. kmetz (Cambridge 1994) 195201.

[d. stevens]