Thursday, January 7, 8500

Guillaume le Heurteur (c. 1500-1550) - Kortholt

[Kortholts, from Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) - Syntagma Musicum (1619)]

In 1545 French composer Guillaume le Heurteur (c. 1500-1550) was choirmaster and canon at S. Martin in Tours. He published a volume of motets (now lost); his motets, masses, and chansons (in some of which he pokes fun at his clerical colleagues) appeared in anthologies from 1530 onwards.

Bicinium (Kortholts)

Chanson (Recorders)

In music of the Renaissance and early Baroque eras, a bicinium (pl. bicinia) was a composition for only two parts, especially one with a pedagogical purpose.

The term has had two usages in music history:

Recently, the term has come to mean any composition at all from the Renaissance or early Baroque period for two vocal or instrumental parts.

Historically, a bicinium referred specifically to a two-part composition used as a teaching tool, most often in Protestant, German-speaking areas.

The term was first used in Poland, by Jan z Lublina in a treatise of 1540. Volumes of bicinia were published in the next several decades in Germany, the Low Countries, and even in Italy, as the usefulness of bicinia as teaching aids became apparent. In addition, Martin Luther had strongly expressed that children should learn both music, and the psalms: bicinia with German texts from the Psalms fulfilled his purpose.

Students could be expected to master singing a single part in a duet more easily than a part in a larger ensemble. Usually a bicinium was designed to be sung or played by students of the same age and ability, rather than for a single student and a teacher.

This model of moving from two-part study, writing, and singing to three parts and then more was adopted by Heinrich Glarean in his Dodecachordon (1547), one of the most influential music theory and pedagogy treatises of the Renaissance.

In a similar manner, present-day music students typically learn counterpoint first by writing in two parts, and then later in three, only moving to four or more parts after mastering the earlier stages.

A similar pedagogical composition for three voices is known as a tricinium (pl. tricinia).


The kortholt is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. It was popular in the Renaissance period.

The name comes from the German kurz (becoming kort) meaning short and holz (becoming holt) meaning wood. This refers to the characteristic low sound that belies the short length of the instrument.

The kortholt is a capped reed instrument. Its construction is similar to that of the chanter of a bagpipe. A double reed is mounted inside a chamber. Blowing into the chamber produces a musical note. The pitch of the note can be varied by opening or closing finger and side holes along the length of the instrument.

The kortholt is actually double bored, similar to the modern bassoon. The cylindrical bore is doubled up inside the instrument producing a sound much lower than normally would be possible from an instrument of that length.

The sound is a similar to the crumhorn, but is softer. The kortholt came in various sizes, the most common being soprano, alto, tenor and bass. They could be played together in a consort.

[8500 Guillaume le Heurteur Kortholt]