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Thread: Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680): Modo hypodorico

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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680): Modo hypodorico

    Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680): Modo hypodorico

    Athanasius Kircher was one of the most famous scholars of the 17th century, and is sometimes called "The last man who knew everything". He was a philosopher, a scientist, a mathematician, an inventor, a writer, a gifted artist and a Jesuit priest. However, this is the only composition of his listed at IMSLP:

    https://imslp.org/wiki/Modo_Hypodori...2C_Athanasius)

    IMSLP doesn't say, but I presume the piece comes from his comprehensive 1650 book on music theory, the "Musurgia Universalis", which was a big influence on Bach and Beethoven. I don't know the original instrumentation -- the IMSLP setting is for organ and I would expect Kircher wrote it for a treble instrument with a ground bass. "Modo hypodorico" or "Hypodorian mode" is one of the eight modes of Gregorian chant. The piece consist of a theme and nine variations, one of them in the bass and one chordal.

    I decided to look up the piece when I came across a recording by the early music group L'Arpeggiata (link), who play it as a tarantella -- I'm not sure that was Kircher's intention, but it is certainly rousing. A possibly more authentic recording (at least closer to the IMSLP score) is by Ensemble Zeitgeist (Link).

    My arrangement for mandolin quartet (two mandolins, mandocello, tenor guitar) is a bit more relaxed than these, not least because I would lose my pick if I try to strum the guitar like that...

    1898 Giuseppe Vinaccia mandolin
    Mid-Missouri M-0W mandolin
    Suzuki MC-815 mandocello
    Vintage Viaten tenor guitar



    Martin
    Last edited by Martin Jonas; Dec-08-2019 at 8:04pm.

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    Registered User JH Murray's Avatar
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    Default Re: Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680): Modo hypodorico

    Beautiful piece, and an introduction to a very interesting man. Thanks for both.

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    Default Re: Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680): Modo hypodorico

    For what it's worth, I really love some L'Arpeggiata albums, and I sometimes feel their taking of liberty is too liberal. (Their take on Handel as crossover material didn't at all work for me, e.g.) No mandolins in sight, but check out their fantastic album of Stefano Landi (15871639) songs, Homo Fugit Velut Umbra.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clGFvXMpjs0


    . . . And, of course, thanks for sharing your super-cool arrangement of Kircher's "Modo hypodorico," Martin.

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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680): Modo hypodorico

    Thanks, Eugene.

    I know what you mean -- on the L'Arpeggiata live performance of the Kircher piece, I'm sceptical about the castagnets, which may be a crossover element too many.

    Having looked a bit closer at this piece, I am now not sure where the variations I've played come from. The organ score available from IMSLP is credited to Leonardo Antonio Di Chiara. He is a contemporary Italian organist, and he has uploaded his own recording on both harpsichord (link) and organ (link) on Youtube. These are definitely the same variations as on my recording, unsurprisingly so as I've used his score.

    However, I've also come across (and now lost again) a link to Kircher's actual facsimile score, which consisted of just the theme and ground bass. So, unless Kircher expanded on it elsewhere, it would appear that the variations at IMSLP and in my recording are by Di Chiara. If so, cudos to Leonardo and thanks for his efforts!

    Martin

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    Default Re: Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680): Modo hypodorico

    Thanks for the added bit of scholarship. Always appreciated.

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680): Modo hypodorico

    Martin....tu gobiernas, amigo.

    Mick
    Ever tried, ever failed? No matter. Try again, fail again. Fail better.--Samuel Beckett
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    Default Re: Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680): Modo hypodorico

    Very interesting; and in my years of study I had not come across this Kircher. I did read about Guido d'Arezzo (the hand and the "ut[do]-re-mi-fa-sol" scale), Zarlino, a contemporary of Monteverdi, Fux Gradus ad Parnassum treatise on Counterpoint. Always fascinating to read period works, to see how people were thinking of music at that time. We can never really know "what it sounded like" but works like these give us insight. I have little patience with people who just play "the way I feel it" without any knowledge of the historical context, or any effort to learn. Thank you for this scholarship!
    jim

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