Johannes Tinctoris

Biography

Born: 1435   Died: 1511   Country: Belgium  
Johannes Tinctoris gave Brain l'Alleud as his birthplace when he registered at the German Nation of Orleans University, which he entered on April 1, 1463. The name he used may have been a Latinized version of his actual vernacular name. His putative hometown is located 20 miles from Brussels, so he might have had a Dutch, French, Flemish, or German name, be it Tinctor, Teinturier, de Vaerwere, or Färbers, all of which have been used in writings Read more about him. It is equivalent to the English Dyer, meaning a person who dyes things. All the original sources use Tinctoris.

By the time he entered that university, he had already been a director of choir boys and was listed elsewhere in the register as a "venerabilis dominus magister." Around 1472, he entered the service of the King of Naples, Ferdinand I, and served as tutor to his daughter, Princess Beatrice. In his own writings, Tinctoris referred to himself in various ways, including "magister" and "cappellanus," implying that he eventually had a major, perhaps the top, supervisory position among the musicians. This is supported by the fact that in 1487, Ferdinand instructed him to take charge of recruiting singers from the establishments of other kings. There is some slight hint that he may have been in Rome and performed for the Pope, though the time and place of his death are unknown. The date above is inferred by musicologists from the fact that on October 12, 1511, one of his positions was transferred to another musician. Tinctoris is valued especially highly by musicologists as a theorist, the author of several treatises on music. These are exceptionally valuable for their systematic and clear explanation of much that was going on in music at the time. The most revered is Terminorum musicae diffinitorium, a listing of 299 definitions of current musical terms. In short, it is the first printed music dictionary. Four of his tracts discuss the mensural notation in use at the time. Another, Tractatus de notis et pausis explains the notes and their time values. Another work, of 51 chapters, exhaustively discusses the system of church modes. There is a book on lute playing and an exceptionally valuable book in three volumes on counterpoint. In addition, Complexus effectum musices is a philosophical work thoroughly discussing the poetics of the art, its esthetics value, its role in religion, its part in education and the treatment of illnesses, and its traditional powers.

Most of these works are profusely illustrated with musical examples and citations to authorities from Plato and Aristotle to composers of Tinctoris' own time. A substantial number of examples are not attributed to anyone and it is clear that they were written by Tinctoris himself. In addition, Tinctoris published music outside the treatises, which he did sign, including sacred and secular vocal music characterized by gracefully flowing, though complex, polyphony. He was among the many composer who wrote a mass with the popular song L'homme armé as its cantus firmus; this is the Missa Cunctorum plasmator summus. During his time, he was extolled both as one of the most notable musicians of the time and as a great writer about music. Read less
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