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date: 11 December 2019


  • Nigel Fortune
  • , revised by Tim Carter


(1) Term applied to music consisting of a single line; see Monophony . Historians and ethnomusicologists have variously applied it to ancient musics, chant and monophonic (e.g. troubadour) song. Some modern composers have also used it in titles or as a generic label, usually with archaizing intent and to indicate a set of technical and structural constraints applied more or less loosely.

(2) Accompanied Italian solo song, especially secular, of the period c 1600–40. The term can either denote an individual song or define the entire body of such songs (and solo recitatives in operas and other works can also be described as monodic). Its use in these senses is a product of modern scholarship; the word was certainly never used by the composers themselves, although there are precedents in 17th-century theory of a more humanist bent (e.g. G.B. Doni). The songs that it embraces are those for solo voice and continuo dating from the inception of the medium at the close of the 16th century to the emergence of the chamber cantata. The accompanying instruments most frequently used were the lute, chitarrone, theorbo, harpsichord and, for lighter songs, guitar. Obbligato instruments occasionally appear, but there is no evidence that a bass viol or similar instrument doubled the continuo bass....

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Musical Quarterly
Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart
N. Fortune: Italian Secular Song from 1600 to 1635: the Origins and Development of Accompanied Monody (diss., U. of Cambridge, 1954)
The New Oxford History of Music (Oxford, 1954-90)
R.M.A. [Royal Musical Association] Research Chronicle