musica ficta

musica ficta
/myooh"zi keuh fik"teuh/; Lat. /mooh"si kah' fik"tah/
the use of chromatically altered tones in the contrapuntal music of the 10th to the 16th centuries.
Also, musica falsa /myooh"zi keuh fawl"seuh/; Lat. /mooh"si kah' fahl"sah/.
[1795-1805; < ML musica ficta, lit., fashioned music]

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(Latin; "feigned music")

In medieval and Renaissance music, the practice of inserting unnotated chromatic notes (see chromaticism) during performances.

According to treatises of the times, it was left to the performers to "correct" certain intervals. Which intervals were to be changed, and how and under what circumstances, varied over time. This practice was responsible for the introduction of accidentals (sharps, flats, naturals) into musical notation. It also influenced the evolution of the major and minor keys on which most Western music came to be based, for it modified the medieval church modes to resemble the major and minor scales.

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also called  musica falsa 

      in medieval music, notes that were not included within the gamut first authorized by the Italian theorist Guido d'Arezzo in the early 11th century. The opposite of musica ficta was musica recta, which included only the recognized notes. The original sense of musica ficta is now used infrequently. The term later came to mean pitch alterations that were necessary in performance but not notated.

      Although some medieval sacred music (i.e., Gregorian chant) employed ficta pitches, these were rarely signaled by accidentals (accidental) (in this case, flats) in the sources. Instead, different strategems were devised in order to recast the music as recta. The use of ficta developed mainly in the realms of secular monophony (i.e., single-line music) and polyphony (i.e., multiple-line music), where such tones are indicated in sources beginning in the 13th century.

      There was no obligation on the part of the scribes to use accidentals in order to signal the presence of ficta. The recognition of the stylistic necessity for an alteration of “wrong” pitches was very often left to the musicianship of the performer. The term musica ficta thus developed a second meaning, namely, the addition by performers of accidentals (i.e., flats, sharps, or natural signs) that are not specified in the notation. Pitch alterations might be desirable for the sake of euphony—for example, to avoid certain diminished or augmented intervals (interval). Alternatively, they might create a more urgent sense of motion by forming less-stable intervals that move satisfyingly (by half-step motion) to more-stable ones. Such relationships later became well established in the major-minor key system of tonality.

      The increasing use of chromatic alterations in polyphony made the church modes less distinct and the modal terminology increasingly vague, although vestiges of the system remained through the 16th century and beyond. The modern editors of medieval and Renaissance music do not always agree on particular ficta alterations, which they usually indicate by means of small accidentals placed above the relevant pitches.

Theodore Karp

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Universalium. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Musica ficta — (from Latin, false , feigned , or contrived music) was a term used in European music theory from the late 12th century to about 1600 to describe any pitches, whether notated or to be added by performers in accordance with their training, that lie …   Wikipedia

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  • Música Ficta (Colombia) — Música Ficta is an early music ensemble founded in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1988. The ensemble is specialized in the performance of Latin American and Spanish renaissance and baroque music. It has performed in over 20 countries in Europe, the USA,… …   Wikipedia

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