Cantus Firmus


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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Cantus Firmus

 

a melody borrowed from any secular or religious work or specially created and used as the basis for a polyphonic musical composition. The method of cantus firmus developed in Western European music in the 12th century, became particularly widespread in the 16th, and began losing its importance in the 17th.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The vast majority of solo movements are in the style of arias that begin with opening ritornellos, and when the voice enters with each line of the hymn text (to a melodic line not necessarily associated with the chorale), the chorale tune eventually emerges from the instrumental ensemble as a cantus firmus. Oftentimes, the musical style and affect assigned to each movement closely aligns to the character of the text for each verse.
When the cantus firmus is in the superius the chant is rhythmicized and elaborated with passing notes, stylized figurations and cadences.
Lusitano's second chapter considers how two or more musicians might improvise together against a cantus firmus. His ingenious solutions for this impressive, but apparently not uncommon, feat require that the voices adopt agreed-upon roles.
God wants us to love him eternally and with our whole hearts--not in such a way as to injure or weaken our earthly love, but to provide a kind of cantus firmus to which the other melodies of life provide the counterpoint ....
Even so, Bossuyt overdoes it when he credits Dufay with the invention of the four-voice cantus firmus Mass (p.83).
As well as the editions themselves, the volume under review includes useful editions of the two motet texts, with translations, and separate editions of the cantus firmus melodies used in the Masses.
For fifteenth-century Latin music, musicologists rely on large-scale markers including genre, mensuration, text distribution, and cantus firmus treatment to determine the origins of anonymous works.
Investigating the most famous musical tradition of the cantus firmus age--Masses based on the popular tune L'Homme arme [The Armed Man]--W.
Technically it would have been difficult indeed for even the informed listener to follow with the ear the long durational sequences inherent in the motet, although clearly heard by all, literally or figuratively trumpeted, would have been the four words of the cantus firmus, "terribilus est ipse locus," the central words of the famous vision of Jacob's Ladder in which angels are seen going up and down from Heaven (and perhaps evoking for some listeners this vision, even the "heavenly" space directly around them).
For Philip orthodoxy far outweighed the criterion of musical excellence, and Villanueva's style, with its close adherence to plainsong--even to the extent of notating the tenor cantus firmus in black neumes which must be read as semibreves--ensured a thoroughly orthodox, if rather unimaginative, style for the liturgy of the Catholic King's monument to the Counter-Reformation.
The most informative section of the introduction deals with the Misa de beata virgine, giving the original plainchant tropes and providing some analysis of the chant's use as cantus firmus in the Mass.