Hucbald

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Hucbald (Hucbaldus, Hubaldus) (c. 840 or 850 – June 20, 930) was a Frankish music theorist, composer, teacher, writer, hagiographer, and Benedictine monk. Deeply influenced by Boethius' De Institutione Musica, he wrote the first systematic work on western music theory, aiming at reconciling through many notated examples ancient Greek music theory and the contemporary practice of the more recent so-called 'Gregorian chant'.

Life[edit]

Born in Northern France, about 850, his name reveals that he could have been closely related to the Carolingian dynasty (he was a familiar of Charles the Bald's court, to whom he dedicated poetical works and luxurious manuscripts). He studied at Elnone Abbey (later named Saint-Amand Abbey, after its 7th-century founder) where his uncle Milo was chief master of studies (scholasticus), in the diocese of Doornik. Hucbald made rapid progress in the sciences of the quadrivium, including that of practical music, and, according to a laudatory 11th-century biographical account, at an early age composed a hymn in honour of St Andrew, which met with such success as to excite the jealousy of his uncle. It is said that Hucbald in consequence was compelled to leave St Amand and to seek protection from the bishop of Nevers.

He was also a companion of studies of such future masters as Remigius of Auxerre and Heiric of Auxerre, perhaps as a disciple of the court philosopher Johannes Scottus Eriugena ('John the Scot', i.e.,Irish). In 872 he was back again at Saint-Amand as the successor in the headmastership of the monastery school of his uncle, to whom he would have been presumably reconciled. Between 883 and 900 Hucbald went on several missions of reforming and reconstructing, after Norman destructions, various schools of music, including those of St. Bertin and Rheims. In 900, however, he returned to Saint-Amand, where he remained to the day of his death on June 20, 930.

Works[edit]

The only theoretical work which can positively be ascribed to him is his Musica (also known as De harmonica institutione), probably written about 880. The Musica enchiriadis, published with other writings of minor importance in Gerbert's Scriptores de Musica, and containing a complete system of musical science as well as instructions regarding notation, has now been proved to have originated elsewhere about the same time and to have been the work of unknown writers belonging to the same intellectual milieu. This work is celebrated chiefly for an essay on a new form of notation described today as Daseian notation and its readable transmission of the first record of Western polyphonic music.

Hucbald wrote also numerous lives of the saints and remained famous for a curious poem on bald men (Ecloga de calvis) dedicated to the archbishop of Mainz, where every word of the 146 hexameters begins with the letter C, initial of calvus. This kind of poetical tour de force belongs to the 'macaronic' literature of the time, inspired by Prudentius.

Trivia[edit]

In 1941 the student association of the Musicology department at the University of Utrecht was named after Hucbald.

External links[edit]

References[edit]

CHARTIER, Yves, L'oeuvre musicale d'Hucbald de Saint-Amand : les compositions et le traité de musique, Saint-Laurent (Québec), Éditions Bellarmin (distribution : Éditions Fides, Montréal ; Éditions Vrin, Paris), 1995.