Portland State University. Department of History
John S. Ott
Term of Graduation
Date of Publication
Master of Arts (M.A.) in History
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.
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Arnsdorf, Jeffrey Allan, "New Perspectives on Johannes de Muris and his Notitia artis musicae" (2020). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5624.