Air(i) (Eng., Fr.)
- Nigel Fortune,
- David Greer
- and Charles Dill
A term used in England and France from the 16th century onwards, frequently and rather loosely as synonymous with ‘melody’, ‘tune’ or ‘song’.
When Thomas Morley (A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke, 1597) applied the term to all the secular vocal forms of his day except the madrigal, the most serious of them, he was following his Italian predecessors and contemporaries in using it to refer to light pieces in a simple, canzonetta-derived style (see Aria §1). The term was also consistently used in England from the same year for published volumes of lute-songs, several of which, however, are serious. Here the spelling ‘ayre’ was often preferred. After the decline of the lute ‘ayre’, towards the mid-17th century, the form ‘air’ was often used again in its more general sense. By the 18th century it clearly denoted a simple, unpretentious song, quite different from the Italian or italianate aria, which in both operas and cantatas was often a complex, highly developed form....