Samantha Arten, “The Origin of Fixed-Scale Solmization in The Whole Booke of Psalmes,” forthcoming from Early Music.
William Bathe’s c. 1596 Briefe Introduction to the Skill of Song and Thomas Morley’s 1597 Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke describe a solmization system that is fixed and static, replacing the medieval gamut that went back to Guido d’Arezzo. This approach became standard in the seventeenth century. My research demonstrates that the English shift from traditional hexachords to fixed scales was initiated a generation earlier in The Whole Booke of Psalmes. First printed in 1562, many editions of this psalter, beginning in 1569, featured a music typeface that contained solmization syllables, along with a new preface that explained their use. Thus the earliest documentation of fixed-scale solmization comes from Protestant religious reformers and the English Reformation’s hymnal. I explain how The Whole Booke of Psalmes systematized the assignment of solmization syllables to absolute pitches, and I compare this system with continental hexachord theory, Bathe’s and Morley’s treatises, and four earlier Genevan music books dated 1550-1562 which also printed solmization syllables. Finally, I suggest that fixed-scale solmization was a uniquely English Protestant innovation.
Samantha Arten, “Tavener, John,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and the Arts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 395-398.
In this encyclopedia article, I discuss Tavener’s use of scriptural texts in his compositions, the ways in which Tavener’s compositional output reflected his own evolving faith, and contemporary theologians’ perspectives on Tavener’s musical theology.