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date: 17 January 2020


  • Ernest H. Sanders


A Latin term meaning ‘song’, ‘melody’ and, secondarily, the blending of two or more simultaneous melodic entities (i.e. synonymous with concentus). The term designated a variety of musical phenomena in the Middle Ages. It crops up as a term for plainchant, especially for chants other than psalmody, primarily those which render not biblical prose but poetic texts or texts tending towards poetry (e.g. prosae). From the 9th century onwards cantilena was often associated with non-ecclesiastical monophony. Hence, the term was applied to jongleurs’ songs, as well as to the secular refrain forms that Johannes de Grocheo (1300) identified with music of the people of northern France: rondeau, and (without text) stantipes and ductia. The subsidiary meaning of the word may account for its use – in contrast to cantio – in connection with certain types of polyphony. In the 9th and 10th centuries it could designate the new (parallel) organum (...

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