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David Fuller

An ambiguous term in English, owing its existence to the fact that it is the literal equivalent of the Latin punctus organi or organicus punctus, the German Orgelpunkt, and the French point d'orgue. Although listed in all musical dictionaries, the English term is usually avoided in practical situations in favour of the more precise ‘pedal’ or Pedal point and Pause or Fermata . Organicus punctus is found as early as Franco of Cologne (Ars cantus mensurabilis, c 1260), who used it for the penultimate note of a tenor at which the regular measure is suspended. Tinctoris (Terminorum musicae diffinitorium, c 1472–3) applied it to the sign of the corona, which by that time was used in various situations where it was necessary for one part to pay attention to the other parts instead of to the beat: on final notes which must be prolonged and released together, in canons, where one part might have to prolong a final note until the other parts have caught up, and in passages of block chords where each note was to be prolonged for effect (e.g. Dufay's ...