Gradus ad Parnassum, derived from Latin, is a phrase used in both music and literature. In its literal translation, "gradus" means "step" or "progress," and "ad Parnassum" refers to the mountain in Greece where it was believed that the Muses lived, serving as an emblem of poetic and artistic inspiration.
In the context of music, Gradus ad Parnassum refers to a well-known educational method developed by Austrian composer and music theorist Johann Joseph Fux in the 18th century. Fux's Gradus ad Parnassum was a treatise on counterpoint, a musical technique that explores the relationships between multiple voices and melodic lines. It provided a systematic approach for learning composition by progressing through a series of exercises in both species and free counterpoint, aiming to develop the necessary skills for composing complex and harmonically-rich music.
In literature, Gradus ad Parnassum alludes to a dictionary or reference book that contains useful and essential vocabulary, phrases, or expressions for writing poetry or prose. These dictionaries often include explanations and examples, enabling writers to improve their literary style, enhance their use of figurative language, and expand their lexicon.
Overall, Gradus ad Parnassum serves as a metaphorical representation of the "steps to Parnassus," symbolizing the pursuit of artistic excellence in music composition and literary expression.