Grosseteste speaks in the De artibus liberalibus – On the Liberal Arts of the healing power of music, as part of a psychological study on proportion, harmony and the exercise of will and passion. As part of the workshop in Lincoln (hosted at and by Bishop Grosseteste University) next week, the newly formed ‘Cantus [In]firmus’ will be making a short musical offering in honour of the Lincolnite, whose appreciation for, and love of, music can be shown from his earliest works to the end of his days. As the later medieval poem Handllyng Synne, which Mike Huxtable memorably read aloud at the Mahfouz Forum, records Grosseteste was especially fond of the harp. The biblical resonances of David calming Saul, and the Psalter as a whole, appealed to Grosseteste and form a significant element in his image of the instrument and its music as a powerful means to glorify God and his creation and to set against sin and the devil. Cantus Infirmus may not be quite in this league, but will offer a performance of the Gradual Viderunt omnes by Perotin during the workshop. The first rehearsal has already taken place in York.
Perotin flourished at Notre Dame at the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th century. The later 13th century treatise Anonymous IV gives evidence for the activity and significance of Perotin and his predecessor Leonin (Leonius of St Victor) in musical composition. They were associated with the development of part-singing: organum, with voices intertwining with different melodies over longer fixed chant notes. Viderunt omnes was composed for Christmas 1198, for Notre Dame, making it, by date, appropriate for the Ordered Universe workshop’s focus on the De artibus liberalibus composed around 1200. Although a Christmas gradual the text, drawn from Psalm 97, verses 3, 4 and 2, is appropriate for the week after Easter, and resonates with many of the themes of the created world which drive Grosseteste’s scientific investigations:
Viderunt omnes fines terrae
salutare Dei nostri
Jubilate Deo, omnis terra.
Notum fecit Dominus salutare suum;
ante conspectum gentium
revelavit justitiam suam.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
Rejoice in the Lord, all lands.
The Lord has made known his salvation;
in the sight of the heathen
he has revealed his righteousness.