- Owen Jander
- and Greer Garden
A term used to describe melody that is ornamented, either written out by the composer, or improvised by the performer. It can apply to a single melodic line, or to polyphony. In the florid organum of Aquitaine in the early 12th century the upper part of the note-against-note counterpoint is embellished with melismas. The term is also used to describe the musica figurata of early Netherlandish composers such as Ockeghem, in which elaborate polyphony was created by combining a number of equally florid lines. Most often it refers to a profuse style of ornamentation running in rapid figures, passages or divisions, but it can also designate ornamentation in general. For example, P.F. Tosi’s treatise on improvised embellishment, Opinioni de’ cantori antichi e moderni, o sieno osservazioni sopra il canto figurato (1723), translated into English (1742) as Observations on the Florid Song, includes specific ornaments, such as trills and appoggiaturas, alongside various types of passage work.