Ars Nova


Ars Nova

Musical style of 14th-century Europe, particularly France. As composers began to use ever shorter notes in their music, the old system of rhythmic modes (see Ars Antiqua) ceased to be adequate to describe it. In his treatise Ars nova (1323), Philippe de Vitry (1291–1361) proposed a way of relating longer and shorter notes by a metrical scheme—the ancestor of time signatures—whereby each note value could be subdivided into either two or three of the next-shorter note. Though seemingly abstract, this innovation had a marked effect on the sound of music because composers were better able to control the relative motion of several voices, and 14th-century music consequently sounds much less “medieval” to modern ears. De Vitry and Guillaume de Machaut are the principal composers of the Ars Nova. The term is sometimes extended to describe all 14th-century music, including that of Italy. See also formes fixes.

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