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Ambrosian Hymns

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Evidence for Roman Music of Late Antiquity?

image of Greek and Roman Musical Studies

After the abortive attempts of the bishop Hilarius of Poitiers, Ambrosius, bishop of Milan, created with the metrum Ambrosianum the starting point for Latin Hymnody by using a familiar pagan meter, the iambic dimeter, as the basic line. Combining four such lines into a stanza he followed the type of the four-line stanzas of Horace. With eight such stanzas he found a model for Christian hymnody for centuries. The text of four of the innumerable Ambrosian hymns is attested for Ambrosius by Augustine. As the ancient notation fell into disuse in the 6th century AD, the melodies of the Ambrosian hymns were transmitted orally until the 10th century. They appear in the medieval manuscripts with neumatic or alphabetic notation, but without rhythmical values and adorned by rich melismata, which mirror the predilections of each monastic community. Five of them are attributed to Ambrosius, from which this inquiry has to begin.

Affiliations: 1: University of Erlangen


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