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date: 18 November 2019

Fugue (from Lat. fuga: ‘flight’, ‘fleeing’; Fr. fugue; Ger. Fuge; It. fuga)locked

  • Paul M. Walker

Extract

(from Lat. fuga: ‘flight’, ‘fleeing’; Fr. fugue; Ger. Fuge; It. fuga)

A term in continuous use among musicians since the 14th century, when it was introduced, along with its vernacular equivalents chace and caccia, to designate a piece of music based on canonic imitation (i.e. one voice ‘chasing’ another; the Latin fuga is related to both fugere: ‘to flee’ and fugare: ‘to chase’). Like ‘canon’, fugue has served since that time both as a genre designation for a piece of music and as the name of a compositional technique to be introduced into a piece of music. Imitative counterpoint in some fashion has been the single unifying factor in the history of fugue, but as compositional approaches to imitation changed so did the meanings and usages of the word ‘fugue’. Between 1400 and 1700 the word held a wide variety of meanings and was employed in a great many contexts, with the idea of fugue as a compositional technique predominating. By the early 18th century musicians had come to prefer its use as a genre designation, in which guise fugue has continued until the present. It is generally distinguished on the one hand from canon, which involves the strictest sort of imitative counterpoint, and on the other from mere imitation, which involves the least strict....

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