cantus firmus

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can·tus fir·mus

 (kăn′təs fîr′məs, fûr′-)
n.
A preexisting melody used as the basis of a polyphonic composition, especially in polyphony of the 1300s and 1400s.

[Medieval Latin : Latin cantus, song + Latin firmus, fixed.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

can•tus fir•mus

(ˈkæn təs ˈfɜr məs)
n., pl. cantus firmus.
2. a fixed melody to which other voices are added, typically in polyphonic treatment.
[1840–50; < Medieval Latin: literally, firm song]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.cantus firmus - a melody used as the basis for a polyphonic composition
Gregorian chant, plainchant, plainsong - a liturgical chant of the Roman Catholic Church
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References in periodicals archive ?
The reworkings of De tous biens plaine illustrate the overwhelming popularity of a conservative cantus-firmus technique focused on the added voices, which Cyrus relates to Brown's "scholastic glossing on authority" (p.
would have expected the device [sequence] to occur at such an important and carefully prepared moment as a cantus-firmus entry.
The older aesthetic of the wall of sound' disappears completely: cantus-firmus based passages in full scoring tend to move at varying rates of rhythmic and harmonic activity, ranging from drawn-out homophonic passages, usually at key phrases of the mass text, to stretches of almost frenzied contrapuntal activity.