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  • Writer's pictureTim Braithwaite

Hieronymus de Moravia (late 13th century) on the use of Harmonic Flowers in Chant

‘The harmonic flower [flos harmonicus] is, however, an ornament of the voice or sound, and a very fast and storm-like vibration. Some flowers are long [1], others open [2], others indeed appear suddenly [3].

[1] Long [longi] flowers are the ones whose vibration is slow, and whose bounds do not exceed a semitone.

[2] The open [aperti] are the ones whose vibration is slow, and whose bounds do not exceed a whole tone.

[3] The sudden [subiti] are those whose vibration begins slowly, but speeds up in the middle and at the end, not exceeding the bounds of a semitone.

The quality and the diversity of these can be shown on the organ [in organis] in the following way: When we play [tangimus] some chant [cantum] on the organ, and if we want to ornament [florizare] some note of the chant, such as the low G, then it [the note] is held open and immobile and we vibrate sharply, not the note immediately below, namely the low F, but [the note] above, the A. Out of this a very beautiful and decorated harmony arises, which we call a blossoming harmony [florem harmonicum].

[1] Therefore when the vibration of the immobile keys is made up of a semitone and the vibration is slow, then it is that flower that we call long.

[2] When, however, it includes a whole tone, and the vibration is neither slow nor fast but in between, it is the open flower.

[3] When it is made up of a semitone, but the vibration is approached slowly, but in its rising and falling [progressu et egressu] becomes very fast, then the flower is that which we call sudden.’

‘Est autem flos harmonicus decora vocis sive soni et celerrima procellarisque vibratio. Florum autem alii longi [1], alii aperti [2], alii vero existunt subiti [3].

[1] Longi flores sunt, quorum vibratio est morosa metasque semitonii non excedit.

[2] Aperti autem sunt, quorum vibratio est morosa metasque toni non excedit.

[3] Subiti vero sunt, quorum quidem vibratio in principio est morosa, in medio autem et in fine est celerrima metasque semitonii non excedit.

Horum autem florum qualitas simul et diversitas in organis ostenditur hoc modo: Quando enim aliquem cantum tangimus in organis, si aliquam notam ejusdem cantus florizare volumus, puta G in gravibus, tunc ipsa aperta immobiliterque detenta non sui inferiorem in medietate, puta F grave, sed potius superiorem, a scilicet, vibramus acutum. Ex quo pulcherrima harmonia decoraque consurgit, quam quidem florem harmonicum appellamus.

[1] Quando igitur clavis immobilis cum vibranda semitonium constituunt et ipsa vibratio est morosa, tunc est flos, qui dicitur longus.

[2] Quando autem includunt tonum et vibratio nec est morosa nec subita, sed media inter ista, est flos apertus.

[3] Quando vero constituunt quidem semitonium, sed vibratio in aggressu sit morosa, in progressu autem et egressu sit celerrima, tunc est flos, qui subitus appellatur.’


Hieronymus de Moravia, Tractatus de musica, ed. S. M. Cserba, Freiburger Studien zur Musikwissenschaft, vol. 2 (Regensburg: Pustet, 1935). My translation.

All musical examples are my own illustrations of Hieronymus’ descriptions.


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