Gioseffo Zarlino was an Italian composer and music theorist who was born in Chioggia, near Venice. In 1541 he took Deacon’s orders and studied music at the basilica of St. Mark in Venice under the composer and maestro di capella, Adriaan Willeart. In 1565, Zarlino moved to Rome after he was offered the prestigious role of maestro di cappella. There, he worked as a music director and teacher of students including Claudio Merulo and Vincenzo Galilei (father of the astronomer, Galileo Galilei).
What Zarlino is arguably most renowned for is his theorisation of music in rigorously mathematical terms. His treatise,Le Istitutioni Harmoniche,first appeared in 1558 and concerns itself with the theory of music which he believed should be central to composition. As a humanist, Zarlino appealed to ancient music theories, particularly the Greek tonal system and tuning, which became the foundations for his treatise.
Le Istitutioni Harmonicheis divided into four books, however the fourth book has been particularly influential for its advice on setting words to music alongside his development of a complete musical vocabulary. Zarlino argued that the harmony of a composition should compliment the meaning of the text it expressed, for example major intervals were strong and bold whereas minor intervals were weak and could convey sadness.
The Baillieu Rare Music collection holds an original Venetian edition of this text which was gifted to the University in 2005 as part of the Louise Hanson-Dyer Collection, named for its eponymous Australian patron of the arts, music publisher and philanthropist.