The Musica of Hermannus Contractus

Edited and translated by Leonard Ellinwood, revised with a new introduction by John L. Snyder
University of Rochester Press, 2015
xvii + 221pp, £55.00
ISBN 978 1 58046 390 4

I tried to find a reviewer, but without success, partly because I am now out of touch with my earlier interest in the subject. Hermann was born on July 18th 1013 and died on 24 September 1054. He had a paralytic condition from an early age, but his intellect was outstanding. His languages were primarily German and Latin: later suggestions were Greek (plausible) and Arabic (unlikely), but Hebrew is more plausible. He wrote about history, the astrolabe, the dating of Easter, the length of the lunar cycle, and eclipses. This volume is concerned with music. Most of my material isn’t easily accessible, but I had read (probably in the mid-1960s) the first Ellinwood edition of 1936. After a few attempts, anyone who knows Hermannus can easily master the 1000-year-old Latin with only a few difficulties. It is an essential book and anyone interested in the chant should buy a copy.

Clifford Barlett