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Tactus, Mensuration and Rhythm in Renaissance Music


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  • Date Published: February 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107637023

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About the Authors
  • Ruth I. DeFord's book explores how tactus, mensuration, and rhythm were employed to articulate form and shape in the period from c.1420 to c.1600. Divided into two parts, the book examines the theory and practice of rhythm in relation to each other to offer new interpretations of the writings of Renaissance music theorists. In the first part, DeFord presents the theoretical evidence, introduces the manuscript sources and explains the contradictions and ambiguities in tactus theory. The second part uses theory to analyse some of the best known repertories of Renaissance music, including works by Du Fay, Ockeghem, Busnoys, Josquin, Isaac, Palestrina, and Rore, and to shed light on composers' formal and expressive uses of rhythm. DeFord's conclusions have important implications for our understanding of rhythm and for the analysis, editing, and performance of music during the Renaissance period.

    • Offers new interpretations of theories of time measurement in Renaissance music over a broad chronological range
    • Provides an accessible overview and includes contextual information about music of the period
    • Integrates interpretations of theory and analyses of music to reveal the meanings of Renaissance musical notation
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    • Winner, 2016 Wallace Berry Award, Society for Music Theory

    Reviews & endorsements

    'DeFord's study provides a thorough overview of the aspect of Renaissance music that is the most difficult for our modern ears and minds to understand: rhythm. While the introductory chapters would serve as an excellent introduction to Renaissance rhythm for upper-level undergraduates or graduate students, the general organization of DeFord's volume will make it useful for a variety of populations and purposes. The wealth of music examples included, many of which are transcribed by DeFord herself, is yet another strength of the book. Tactus, Mensuration, and Rhythm in Renaissance Music is an important contribution to Renaissance scholarship. Kimberly Hieb, Notes

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2018
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107637023
    • length: 516 pages
    • dimensions: 245 x 170 x 27 mm
    • weight: 0.9kg
    • contains: 27 b/w illus. 14 tables 240 music examples
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Theory:
    1. Sources of information
    2. Principles of mensural notation
    3. Definitions and descriptions of Tactus
    4. Tactus and rhythm
    5. Tactus and signs in fifteenth-century music theory
    6. Tactus and signs in sixteenth-century music theory
    7. Tactus and tempo
    Part II. Practice:
    8. The songs of Du Fay
    9. The L'homme armé masses of Ockeghem, Busnoys, and Josquin
    10. The five- and six-voice motets of Josquin
    11. The Choralis Constantinus of Isaac
    12. The masses of Palestrina
    13. The madrigals of Rore
    14. Popular songs and dances

  • Author

    Ruth I. DeFord, Hunter College, City University of New York
    Ruth I. DeFord is Professor Emerita of Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her principal areas of research are the Italian madrigal and canzonetta and music theory of the Renaissance. She has edited the canzoni of Giovanni Ferretti and the canzonettas of Orazio Vecchi for A-R Editions. Her articles have appeared in numerous scholarly journals.


    • Winner, 2016 Wallace Berry Award, Society for Music Theory

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