Cantio (Lat.: ‘song’)
- John Caldwell
The word, of classical origin, was in frequent use throughout the Middle Ages to mean any kind of song, whatever its subject matter, language or musical style. It gave rise to vernacular terms including ‘canso(n)’ (Provênçal), ‘canzone’ (Italian) and ‘chanson’ (French), which also may be of wide general application. Dante (De vulgari eloquentia, II.viii), using the word ‘cantio’ as the Latin equivalent of these, limits its application to the high-style strophic song. From the 14th century onwards it came to be applied more specifically to sacred, non-liturgical Latin song, strophic in form and usually with a refrain. In modern musicological literature it has sometimes been used in a comparatively wide sense to refer to monophonic art songs in Latin from the 10th century onwards (Stevens, 1986), but more often to refer to late medieval religious songs of the kind collected in cantionalia (and books denoted by equivalent vernacular terms) from the 14th to the 16th centuries (...