The following is from Harvard Dictionary of Music 2nd Edit.

From the definition of 'Discant' (bold added):

[...] The ideal of contrary motion was mentioned in the 13th-century "Tractatus de Discantu" (in J.-A.-L. de la Fage, Essais, i, 358; CS i, 311) but became an essential characteristic of discant theory only at the end of the 13th century, when modal rhythm was replaced by mensural rhythm.

Full page of context:

page 263 of dictionary dirigent-discant

I've never heard these two terms: mensural and modal rhythm. Google gave nothing, neither did Britannica.

What do these two terms mean?

  • 2
    I unfortunately don't have the time to answer right now, but the phrases "rhythmic modes" and "mensural notation" may help guide you.
    – Richard
    Sep 5, 2022 at 23:16
  • @Richard Thank you, rhytmic modes gave results, I edited the question thank you for the suggestion.
    – user88063
    Sep 5, 2022 at 23:28
  • Did you read the referenced section "[Modes, rhythmic]"?
    – Aaron
    Sep 5, 2022 at 23:36
  • 2
    That seems like it would supply the basis for a good answer. In case you aren't already familiar, it's permitted to answer your own question.
    – Aaron
    Sep 6, 2022 at 0:46
  • 1
    Orhan Torun: the link in your previous comment does not work for me. I join @Aaron in encouraging you to write an answer describing what you've found.
    – phoog
    Sep 6, 2022 at 8:45

1 Answer 1


Modal rhythm used note linkage to indicate length. Various patterns of notes indicated how to play the following notes.

Mensural rhythm used note forms (minim, breve, semibreve, etc.); using like 2 semi-breves vs a breve to indicate binary rhythm and 3 semi-breves vs a breve to indicate ternary rhythm schemes.

These are well-described in Wikis and various music history books.

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