Professor Matteo Nanni

Professor Matteo Nanni

I am professor of musicology at the University of Gießen (Germany). One of my main research fields is medieval and early modern music with a particular focus on history of musical notation.


  • There is only indirect. The so called liquescent neumes are an evidence of that.

  • Thanks Edel!

  • Yes, you are absolute right!

  • Great question! Actually not any more. You are right. In fact the distinction of punctum and virga in the square notation has lost its original function. But it is exactly thank to that "transcriptions" from neumes into square notation on lines that it was possible to deduce the function of punctum and virga!

  • Dear Kathryn, thank you very much for your question. The three manuscripts you refer to are three beautiful exemplars of Aquitanian neumes (a neumatic family from south France that made also use of lines). On STep 2.4 you can find on the table of the neums a comparison of the main neumatic forms. The Aquitanian neumes make a stron use of single dots compared...

  • You may use a quite simple rule for that: every end of an ordo is marked by a stroke which means a rest. In modal notation the size of the stroke does usually not indicate the length of the rest. Depending from the mode you are, you should fill up the rest of the "bar" with a rest of the length required.

  • This is a nice idea! Actually we have too little notated testimonies of "street music" from that time. Therefore it is too speculative to give a definitive answer on that. But there are actually sources of music that can be related to dance in that style: the conductus.

  • Dear Brenda, you are right, the medieval copyists did sometimes write the notes in a way that it appears to us as ambiguous. A good way to be sure if a note is is on the line or above or below is to compare it with the other voices. If some strange sounds full of dissonances will come out, there may be a misreading.

    Concerning the rests at the end of the...

  • Thank you Jeanne for you question. It is common to transcribe with so called octave clefs. Under the g-clefs there is a little 8 that indicates, that the notes written should be read an octave lower. This use can be helpful to avoid ledger lines.

  • Dear Clovis, thank you again for your very precise questions. Concerning the question of staff lines we should by no means think that only Guido proposed that use! We have notational lines in use since the carolingian times (9th century). Of course not in the same way as in the Aquitanian neumes or the italian neumes uesed by Giudo. Concerning the question 3...

  • Dear Gianpaolo, very nice that you have done the full transcription of this motet. Actually you have touched and recognized a point that in the daily work with medieval manuscripts can alway happen: In the end of the tenor voice there is actually an error done by the copyist. After the rest it should be a (perfect) Longa followed by another (perfect) Longa....

  • Thank you for your answer and your suggestion. Concerning the question of neumatic transcription of a melody it is important to emphasize the fact that the neumes are not a systematic codification that permit to deduce strict rules. We can only make observations on the praxis how neumes were used, and I would not exclude that in some cases neumes were used to...

  • Dear Clovis, thanks a lot for your comment, which touches a lot of very important questions. I think it is very important to add the perspective of articulation, accent, and other musical parameters in the discussion. More on that you find in week two.
    The "Alas my love" nematic example has to be taken as a – somehow tentative – example of how melody can be...

  • Exactly! That's how it worked in a medieval scriptorium. Musical script was developed in a clerical milieu where the modern distinction between musicians, singer, theorist... why not theologian etc. was not as sharp as nowadays.

  • In some of your comments you have reflected on the difference between composing and copying. Actually this is a very important question because, as we will see, the concept of composition and work of art in the middle ages was quite different than nowadays. An important clue is that until the late middle ages the composers of most compositions were...

  • Thank you Erwin for your interesting point of view!

  • I agree with all you! It is very nice to see the first results of some of you on the Padlet (see the link below). The best thing to to... is always try by oneself!
    I am eager to see more of your beautiful handwritings!

  • It takes a bit time for getting familiar with the medieval writing... but it is with it!
    Go on and after a while everything will be clearer and clearer.

  • I am happy that exercise this is helpful!

  • Yes, the glossary can be a good help and do not be afraid, during the next week there will be more on all that.

  • It is very interesting to see how many different approaches and backgrounds you all bring with. This variety is a very good starting point for great discussions!

  • Dear learners, I want to welcome you all to this course. I hope you will enjoy it and that the course will give you the opportunity to get more and more curious about medieval music and its history.

  • Dear Louise, we are planning to rerun the course November of this year. In behalf of my team I would like to ask you for the permission for using the first line of your commentary as testimonial for the new course. If you agree, we would be very happy about that!
    Thanks a lot and all best wishes
    Matteo Nanni

  • Dear Estrella,
    the certificate of participation that future learn offers is just for the participation. Please ask your academic institution if they accept it as part of a music course.
    Thank you again for your interest and have a nice time!

  • Dear Robert, I have just posted these explanations about the tuning system on another conversation with Emilysue on step 7.3.
    Here the short information:

    The Lute is tuned in equal temperament.
    The keyboard is tuned after Arnolt Schlick (1511)

    Here some more informations about the instrument-reconstructions:

    Ich spiele ein Renaissance- Cembalo...

  • The tuning of the Michal Gondko's lute follows to the late-mediaeval and renaissance treatises and is called: equal temperament.
    Corinas keyboard make use of a more complicate tuning system:

    It follows the description of the early renaissance treatise by Arnolt Schlick (1511), and has almost-pythagorean fifths and fourths, while the major thirds are a...

  • I can understand the problem very well! The tablature notation is actually a very especial way to visualize musical phaenomena. It is closely linked to the specific manner to play the instrument. This may explains the difficulties to follow them.

    Concerning the "sharp" we already used this term in step 4.6. It is actually a word that indicates all kind of...

  • Yes, we will upload a pdf version during the next days.

  • I would like to welcome everybody who started during the last week!

  • Indeed the instruments are reconstructions of ancient instruments tuned in the late-medieval temperament.

  • Actually European music history owes the invention of the lute to the arabic culture. The Oud was introduced in Spain during the arab period. From there, during the 13th and 14th centuries, the medieval Lute was developed.
    Thank you Andrew for the great youtube video!

  • The role of the conductor in gregorian chant is quite a difficult question. In this case Dominique Vellard is indicating both the voice articulation and the cue.
    After the second Vatican Council gregorian chant is not any more so much in use in the catholic church. Of course you can still find many places practicing it. For that purpose there is a very good...

  • Dear Adrian, at the present point it is not possible to provide the whole transcription. You can find the transcription by the musicologist Wolfgang Rehm in an older publication dated 1957: Die Chansons von Gilles Binchois (1400-1460), Mainz : B. Schott's Söhne, 1957, p. 10–11. For the re-run of this course we will provide an own transcription.

  • Dear Robert, thaks a lot for your question. I think that a short focused text will be the best. About 200 words will be fine.

  • Dear all, I want to apologize in name of my team the typo error you found in this text. It has been corrected adding a clarifying specification.

  • Dear Christos thank you very much for your suggestion! Actually this further musicological spects would be very interesting, however it would go beyond the scope of the course.
    This are topics that can be learned in a musicology course for example at the Basel university.

  • Dear Stephanie, please apologize we will change it as soon as possible.

  • Great! I am happy to see the good quality of the interaction between the learners!

  • During the 15th century an important change concerning the materila occured. While during the past centuries all music manuscripts were written on parchment during the 15th century the scribes began to make use also of paper.

  • Yes, you are absolutely right. A little graphic error occured. The example will be corrected soon into: void Semibrevis, black Semibrevis, black Minima.
    I apologize.

  • Yes, actually many ensembles transpose the pieces in order to fit better with the singing voice. Historically it is not a problem at all, because the establishment of a "standard pitch" was decided in a conference in Stuttgart (Germany) 1834. The A fas fixed to 440 Hz.

  • Don't worry! I find great that you joined this course.

  • Thanks Emilysue for that and for all the other posts.
    The idea of this article was not to transcribe the piece, but if you would like to do that, it is a good exercise.

    Concerning the accidentals (sharp and flat) I can confirm that in many medieval manuscripts you will find many cases in which a sharp-sign is missing. In Guillaume de Machauts Gloria (on...

  • Dear Anna the division of the longa in three time units was introduced in the first half of the 13th century and was described by many theorists and in a special manner by Franco of Cologne.
    If you read in the first table of 4.4. (in the rules for pre-franconian ligatures) "2 tempora" than this means the following situation:

    A ligature with the duration of...

  • Don't worry! I just want to remind you that if you are not sure about an answer you can go back to the steps and take a look at the texts, tables, images...

  • I would like to welcome all the new joiners! I hope you enjoy the course and I am looking forward to reading your posts and the discussions with the other learners.

  • A good pont! The C-time implies the possibility to divide time in a even number. The division of time in the 13th century was conceived only as possible as three-fold division.
    In Week 5 you will have the opportunity to learn about the coexistence of odd and even division of time.

  • Actually the rules you can see on both tables of 4.4 (but in particular the second one) were a quite important step in history of musical notation.
    The point is that the menusral signs – following that rules – could visualize a clearly defined rhythmic structure. The most interesting point was indeed taht this was legible in the singn itself, and not just by...

  • Thank you Sharon and Polly for your Suggestion. I have already discussed this with my team and actually I was informed that until now for techincal reason it was not possible to give a feedback for every answer (just in quizes that have just a single right answer).
    We all hope to implement your suggestion for a re-run of this course.
    Thank you again!

  • Ok, I've got the point. The identity of a mode is codified in the very beginning of the "ordo "(which is the musical unity between the divisio modi).

    The question 3 in the test has two 3 mode ordines and than changes to a 2nd mode.

    The examples for this test were selected by my colleague from original manuscripts, where this changes are common.

  • Thanks Aurora for this helpful comment!

  • Yes, it is now correct. I wish to thank Jonas Löffler, who was involved during the production of this course –for instance writing this step and providing the tables for it.

    Thanks also all of you – particularly Jannine McCurle – for the precise reading and for reporting errors. We will always try to improve all your suggestions for the re-run of this...

  • The principle for recognizing the rhythmic modes is that we shouldn't let us guide by just the note shapes (as in modern notation). Thy rhythmic pattern is "encoded" in the sequence of signs. In Question 3 of the test you can see the sequence:

    "Single Note – Three-Note Ligature – Pause" etc...

    The combination of 1 Note and 3-note Ligature (as...

  • Thank you, Pabo for your very helpful comments!

  • I am pleased that you appreciate the learning contetns of this course. But don't give up, because in the next weeks, you will have systems of notation that are closer to the modern one.
    The repeat sign in western music notation is quite old, there are rarely examples in monophonic music but the une of it increased around the middle of the 15th century with...

  • Dear John, its true one could be a bit puzzled because of that. But we should distinguish clearly between the single note shapes from the ligatures. Indeed during the evolution of medieval notation the clearity of notational signs increased slowly. We can observe that some signs moved from ambiguity to unambiguousness.
    You can find two tables about the...

  • Dear Jill, thanks a lot for your post. I think it's really important to mention different aspects and historical approaches. It would be very helpful, if you could tell us about which theories and approaches you would like do be discussed here.
    Could you please mention some of them?

  • It's a good observation. But we have to imagine it like this: a manuscript consists of different "layers" that is different partes written in different times and by different scribes. In Montpellier we have pieces written in modal notation, pieces in pre-franconian notation, and pieces in franconian notation. We have even many motets in which the upper voices...

  • Thanks a lot!

  • Great!

  • Yes. The authorship of this organum is not known. During the 13. Century most of the compositions reached us without the name of the author. We have to wait until week 5 to have names of composers.

  • Actually it's a bit difficult to distinguish a plica-stroke from a normal stroke. It becomes much easier after getting acquainted to the shapes of the "standard" ligatures (See step 4.4). If you see then a stroke in a position which is not "standard " so it should be a plica.

  • Thanks for all your posts and for the interesting discussion.
    To your question about the strokes I can tell you that they had different functions as for instance to indicate rests or formal divisions. They were implemented also sometimes to mark the change of a syllable.
    In the 12.-13. Century they did not however mean "bar" divisions because the concept of...

  • I am very pleased to read the posts of all the new joiners! A warm welcome to all of you.
    I hope you will enjoy the course and that you will join soon the very interesting discussions with the other learners.

  • Dear Alberto, this is a really difficult question. There are very different theories on the origin of neumes. But there are some hints that there should be a common origin (some argue that the oldest was the Paleo-Frankish, some other – recently Susan Rankin – argue its the Breton). In our Table of the neumes we have not all the neumatic families. There are...

  • Madita's explanation about the accentuation, the rhythm of the word "imperium" has already poited out the exact reasons. But I can add some other things.

    Catherinae's idea to put ourself in the shoes of a monk is fascinating. What the monk would have for shure is a notion of word rhythm. While learning the melody he would know that "im-pe-ri-um" will have...

  • Good observation. In the modern music - let's say after 1950 - new notation systems were developed.
    Something of the neumatic logic seems to come back...

  • Great, I agree with you and many of the learners who posted in the last days. For example Eric Schrager and Leo Lousberg.