Show Summary Details

Page of
PRINTED FROM Oxford Music Online. © Oxford University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single article in Oxford Music Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

Cantus firmus (Lat.: ‘fixed melody’; Ger. fester Gesang; It. canto fermo)locked

  • M. Jennifer Bloxam


A term, associated particularly with medieval and Renaissance music, that designates a pre-existing melody used as the basis of a new polyphonic composition. The melody may be taken from plainchant or monophonic secular music, or from one voice of a sacred or secular polyphonic work, or it may be freely invented. Cantus firmus composition is now understood to encompass a wide range of rhythmic and melodic treatments of an antecedent tune within a new polyphonic texture....

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Please subscribe to access the full content.

Musical Quarterly
Handwörterbuch der musikalischen Terminologie
F. Blume: Die evangelische Kirchenmusik (Potsdam, 1931-4/R, enlarged 2/1965 as Geschichte der evangelischen Kirchenmusik; Eng. trans., enlarged, 1974, as Protestant Church Music: a History)
Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, Parker Library
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Early Music History
Musica disciplina
Gesellschaft für Musikforschung: Kongress-Bericht [1950-]
London, British Library
Dijon, Bibliothèque Municipale
Zeitschrift für Musikwissenschaft
Plainsong and Medieval Music
Archiv für Musikwissenschaft
Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart
Journal of Musicology
Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Musikabteilung
G. Reese: Music in the Renaissance (New York, 1954, 2/1959)
San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Monasterio, Real Biblioteca
Seville, Institución Colombina
Studien zur Musikwissenschaft
Journal of the American Musicological Society
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians