First Advisor

John S. Ott

Term of Graduation

Fall 2020

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Johannes de Muris (approximately 1300-approximately 1350), Music theory -- Early works to 1800, Musical notation, Johannes de Muris (approximately 1300-approximately 1350). Notitia artis musicae



Physical Description

1 online resource (xiii, 155 pages)


At the end of the 1310s, Norman mathematician and astronomer Johannes de Muris (c. 1295-after 1344) reconceived the existing musical notation system on a mathematical foundation. His Notitia artis musicae dramatically increased the fidelity with which the system could represent complex rhythmic patterns. In recent years, musicologists, particularly Karen Desmond, have begun to incorporate the scholarship of historians of astronomy in their work on Muris and the Notitia. These studies take as their focus conceptual shifts in music theory and practice. This thesis repositions the perspective to Muris himself, seeking to shed light on his intention in writing the Notitia. My investigation of Muris's intentions involves two complementary approaches: First, I explore the contexts of his early life: his Norman heritage, curricular and extracurricular experience as a university student in Paris, and exposure to musical innovations. Then I analyze the Notitia, focusing on its generally neglected first book, of which I provide the first English translation. I conclude that Muris wrote the Notitia in order to bolster his reputation as a capable and innovative mathematician by providing a rational explanation for the function of musical time based on observation and both Aristotelian and Ptolemaic principles. I also demonstrate that Muris's modifications of the existing notational system were modeled on the astronomical method for mathematically organizing time. These conclusions enhance our understanding of the ways in which late medieval scholars could apply knowledge across disciplinary boundaries and remind us of the role of individuals' personal motivations in the advancement of arts and sciences. It further provides a holistic framework with which to contextualize existing scholarship while suggesting a fruitful avenue for future research.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Persistent Identifier