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date: 28 January 2020

Cantica (Lat.: ‘songs’)locked

  • Geoffrey Chew


(Lat.: ‘songs’)

In ancient Roman comedies, the sung lyric sections as opposed to the diverbi or sections containing spoken dialogue; and, in a narrower sense, the sections sung by soloists (rather than the chorus) with instrumental accompaniment. In the latter sense the cantica were analogous to monody in Greek drama. In the comedies of Plautus, the cantica are highlights, and must have required highly skilled performers.

In the Middle Ages, the term (with either canticum or cantica as a singular form) was used more broadly to mean ‘song’, especially when referring to sacred monophonic songs (e.g. sequences or vernacular religious songs; it has been used in the same sense by modern editors for monophonic Byzantine hymns). It came to be applied particularly to the biblical Song of Songs and to the canticles of the Divine Office of the Roman rite (see Canticle).

E. Reisch: ‘Canticum’, Paulys Real-Encyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft...

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