Harmonia Early Music

Harmonia Time Capsule: 1250

Let’s take a quick look back in time. . . to the year 1250 and the birth of Giovanni Pisano and Guido Cavalcanti, the death of Leonardo Fibonacci, and more.

siena facade

Photo: Zyance (Wikipedia)

Detail from the façade of Siena Cathedral. Much of the work on the façade was overseen by Giovanni Pisano.

In Italy, two prominent artists were born in 1250, one going on to work with stone, the other with words.

Giovanni Pisano, son of the famous sculptor Nicola Pisano, worked extensively within Pisa, Siena, and Pistoia.  Pisano’s sculptures for the Pisa Cathedral and the Church of San Giovanni featured a blend of Gothic and Roman architectural style, and his statues created for the facade of Siena Cathedral garnered his title: “the first modern sculptor.”

Nicola and Giovanni Pisano: Father and Son
Max Seidel
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Gothic Art (Art of Century)
Victoria Charles / Klaus H. Carl
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Florentine poet Guido Cavalcanti worked amid the turmoil of a power struggle between the Guelphs who supported the Pope and Ghibellines who backed the Holy Roman Emperor.  Guido secured his interests through an advantageous marriage to the daughter of the Ghibelline party leader.  His poetry demonstrated sensitivity to both current events and centuries-old poetic forms, and he helped develop a distinct Tuscan tradition of courtly love poetry, influenced by French troubadour and trobairitz and the Sicilian School.  The dolce stil novo, or “sweet new style,” may also have influenced Guido’s close poet-friend Dante during his composition of La vita nuova.

Guido Cavalcanti: Complete Poems
Guido Cavalcanti
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The Sonnets and Ballate of Guido Cavalcanti
Ezra Pound / Guido Cavalcante
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La Vita Nuova
Dante Alighieri
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Also in Italy, mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci died in 1250.  Fibonacci was the son of a wealthy merchant who often traded in Bugia, a Mediterranean port in what’s now Algeria. There, Fibonacci was exposed to the Hindu-Arabic numeral system.  Finding it to be more efficient than the Roman numeral system, he traveled across the region to study with many of the leading Arabic mathematicians of his time.  Following his exploration, Fibonacci published his findings in the Liber abaci or the “Book of Abacus,” which helped introduce to Europe the digits 0 through 9, as well as another well-known sequence of numbers—the Fibonacci sequence, in which each number is the sum of the previous two.

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci
Joseph D'Agnese / John O'Brien
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The Fabulous Fibonacci Numbers
Alfred S. Posamentier / Ingmar Lehmann
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In Germany in 1250, Albertus Magnus, a Domincan friar, isolated the element arsenic.  Albertus’s advocacy for the coexistence of science and religion gained him a reputation as a master alchemist.  Subsequent generations claimed he had even discovered the philosopher’s stone.  Throughout his life, Albertus cultivated an extensive knowledge of the natural world.  In addition to advancements in metallurgy, he is also credited with the first usage of the word “oriole,” an onomatopoeic term inspired by the bird’s very song.

Egyptian Secrets of Albertus Magnus
Albertus Magnus
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The year 1250 also saw the birth of composer Jehan de Lescurel.  It is believed that Jehan was born in Paris and received his musical training at Notre Dame Cathedral.  His compositions include examples of the poetical formes fixes: the rondeau, virelai, and ballade.  A number of these works feature prominently in the Roman de Fauvel.  A long-standing myth states that Jehan, along with three other young clerics, was condemned for debauchery and sentenced to death by hanging.  Scholars now believe this to be false, speculating that, in fact, another cleric by the name of Jehan was hanged for the lecherous crimes.

Music heard in this time capsule:

Tr. 10 - Dame, par vo dous regart (excerpt)
Ensemble Gilles Binchois / Dominique Vellard — Fontaine de Grace (EMI Classics , 2006)
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Tr. 10 - Dame, par vo dous regart (excerpt)
Ensemble Gilles Binchois / Dominique Vellard — Fontaine de Grace (EMI Classics , 2006)
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album cover
Nicola and Giovanni Pisano: Father and Son
Max Seidel
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Gothic Art (Art of Century)
Victoria Charles / Klaus H. Carl
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Guido Cavalcanti: Complete Poems
Guido Cavalcanti
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
The Sonnets and Ballate of Guido Cavalcanti
Ezra Pound / Guido Cavalcante
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
La Vita Nuova
Dante Alighieri
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci
Joseph D'Agnese / John O'Brien
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
The Fabulous Fibonacci Numbers
Alfred S. Posamentier / Ingmar Lehmann
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Egyptian Secrets of Albertus Magnus
Albertus Magnus
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Laura Osterlund

Laura Osterlund is a scriptwriter for Harmonia, recorder player, and student at McGill Univeristy in Montreal, Canada. In 2007, she moved from the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois to Montreal in pursuit of a B.Mus. with major concentrations in Early Music Performance and Music History. Laura is an active musician throughout Montreal and Chicago and an avid memberof the movement to promote Early Music performance, pedagogy, research, and appreciation throughout North America.

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  • http://josephdagnese.com/ Joseph D’Agnese

    Laura: Thank you for your kind mention of my children’s picture book on Fibonacci! — Joe

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