Guido D'Arezzo

The creator of modern musical notation

Musician, lived between 990 and 1050. It is now accepted that he was born in Arezzo (and not in France or England or elsewhere). According to what he himself told of himself in two of his letters addressed to a brother Michael and Bishop Theobald, it seems that G.'s life can be divided into three epochs: in the first, his youth takes place in the monastery of Pomposa, near Ferrara, from where the envy and jealousy of brothers force him to move away; in the second he makes great journeys that, after a long absence, bring him back to Arezzo; in the last period, spent first in Arezzo, then in Rome, his reputation as a teacher spread throughout Italy. Giovanni xix calls him to himself and wants him to learn the way he has found to sulfur and suddenly read the music. Threatened and perhaps already tormented by malaria, G. leaves Rome, perhaps with the intention of returning to Pomposa; but since then every trace of him is lost. It is not possible to specify in which city and in which year he died.

G.'s reforming work brought its concluding action especially to the following two points of musical doctrine:

1. on neumatic notation, where, giving absolute and definitive importance to the staff, determining the number of lines, giving equal meaning to the spaz and lines and using (as, f0rse, already began to do in the earlier times) the letters-keys and the colors yellow and red to indicate the different sounds of the scale. , he removed from the neumi all uncertainty of interpretation and any ambiguity of meaning, fixing exactly the intonation and making the musical notation of his times the basis of today's musical writing;

2. on the theory and practice of sulphur where, using the system of analogy, for which the sounds and intervals contained in a given melody (the anthem to St. John) are taken as a model to find the intonation of other sounds and intervals contained in the other melody, he accustomed the singers to distinguish and sing, without effort, the different intervals, and began a form of sulphur , based on the exaggerating scale and taking, then, wide and singular development (perhaps not in all responding to the intentions of G.), lasted no less than five centuries.


From this and the fact that the friar aretino cured, with singular attention, the development of the primitive medieval polyphony (the organum and the diaphony) preparing the not distant flowering of the form of the discanto, it is evident that G.'s work was, if not innovative, work of reordering, completion and simplification. But the rules set by G. other rules soon overlapped. From the application of the staff, key letters and colors arose a new form of musical writing derived directly from the neumatics, but of this more massive and square, from which then had to descend, after centuries, the modern round writing; and from the clear and simple system of analogy were born the new names of the notes (ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la) and the complicated exacordal system that had its practical demonstration in the use of the Guidonian Hand or Harmonic Hand and in the system of Mutations. How much of G.'s direct teaching in these amplifications has played cannot be established. It is to be believed that neither the invention of the hexachord system nor that of the new names of the notes are to be attributed to him.