Reform by Franco of Cologne as the basis of rhythmic notation

  • Mykola Khshanovskyi Postgraduate Student, Lviv National Music Academy named after Mykola Lysenko, Lviv (Ukraine).
Keywords: mensural notation, rhythmic notation, reform, Franco of Cologne, Ars Nova.


The article describes the stages of development of rhythmic notation, characterizes the essence of the reform of Franco of Cologne. Its significance for the formation of the Ars Nova notation has been revealed. The research methodology is based on a combination of general-historical and theoretical methods. The Franco’s notation reform can be summed up by next basic points. Firstly, in the framework of the already existing and rather long tradition of mensural music, which began condition
ally from Johannes de Garlandia (in theory, in practice – even before), the Franco’s treatise had a unifying and systematic meaning. Also, the author brilliantly summarized the groundwork of an entire epoch in the history of western rhythmic notation. If we consider the pre-Franco’s notation to be potentially mensural, then Franco puts it in a classical form that will be relevant for the next two centuries. Secondly, Franco in his reform fixes the transition from a modal notation (which is still not quite stable in terms of unambiguous reading) to the actual mensural (quite stable in this attitude). And finally, in a broader sense, the Franco’s mensural system can be considered a completely emancipated system of musical rhythm. It is not related to the rhythm of the poem, either with the rhythm of prose, or with a priori rhythmic formulas that largely comprise the content of modal rhythm. From this point of view, the mensural system represents a further step in separating music from the word, from the verse, from the grammar. The collapse and interpenetration of modes led to the idea of a triple metric unit, abstraction from modes, to the idea of perfection. The connection with modes remained, since the perfection was a triple one, but it was already a theoretical abstraction, practically equivalent to the modern concept of a bar. Further steps in this direction were made by Vitry and Muris.


1. Girfanova, M. (2013). Antichno-srednevekovyye latinskiye grammatiki i ucheniye o ritmicheskikh modusakh Ioanna Garlandskogo. Kazan'. Muzyka i vremya № 9.
2. Ezoterychne ta ekzoterychne. (2002). Filosofsʹkyi entsyklopedychnyi slovnyk. Ed. V. Shynkaruk. Kyiv: Abrys. 742 p.
3. Pospelova, R. (2003). Zapadnaya notatsiya XI-XIV vekov. Osnovnyye reformy (na materiale traktatov). Moskva: Kompozitor. 416 p.
4. Prosnyakov, M. (2000). Kosmicheskaya muzyka Shtokkhauzena. Moskva. 256 p.
5. Tarasevich, N. (2013). O menzural'noy notatsii, a takzhe o kanonakh menzural'nykh i proportsional'nykh. Zhurnal Obshchestva teorii muziki №2. Moskva.
6. Apel, W. (2012). The Notation of Polyphonic Music 900-1600. Cambridge: The Mediaeval Academy of America. 520 p.
7. Ars Cantus Mensurabilis Mensurata Per Modos Iuris. (1994). Ed. C. Matthew Balensuela. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 331 p.
8. Franco of Cologne. Ars cantus mensurabilis. (1974). Ed. Gilbert Reaney and Andre Gilles. Corpus scriptorium de musica vol. 18. N.p.: American Institute of Musicology.
9. Hoppin, R. (1978). Medieval Music. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 592 p.
10. Sanders, E. (1980). Hocket. New Grove. vol. 8. London: Macmillan.
How to Cite
Khshanovskyi, M. (2019). Reform by Franco of Cologne as the basis of rhythmic notation. Scientific Collections of the Lviv National Music Academy Named After MV Lysenko, (45), 141-151.