—canonlike, adj./kan"euhn/, n.1. an ecclesiastical rule or law enacted by a council or other competent authority and, in the Roman Catholic Church, approved by the pope.2. the body of ecclesiastical law.3. the body of rules, principles, or standards accepted as axiomatic and universally binding in a field of study or art: the neoclassical canon.4. a fundamental principle or general rule: the canons of good behavior.5. a standard; criterion: the canons of taste.6. the books of the Bible recognized by any Christian church as genuine and inspired.7. any officially recognized set of sacred books.8. any comprehensive list of books within a field.9. the works of an author that have been accepted as authentic: There are 37 plays in the Shakespeare canon. Cf. apocrypha (def. 3).10. a catalog or list, as of the saints acknowledged by the Church.11. Liturgy. the part of the Mass between the Sanctus and the Communion.12. Eastern Ch. a liturgical sequence sung at matins, usually consisting of nine odes arranged in a fixed pattern.13. Music. consistent, note-for-note imitation of one melodic line by another, in which the second line starts after the first.14. Print. a 48-point type.[bef. 900; ME, OE < L < Gk kanón measuring rod, rule, akin to kánna CANE]canon2/kan"euhn/, n.1. one of a body of dignitaries or prebendaries attached to a cathedral or a collegiate church; a member of the chapter of a cathedral or a collegiate church.2. Rom. Cath. Ch. one of the members (canons regular) of certain religious orders.[1150-1200; ME; back formation from OE canonic (one) under rule < ML canonicus, L: of or under rule < Gk kanonikós. See CANON1, -IC]
* * *Musical form and compositional technique.Canons are characterized by having a melody that is imitated at a specified time interval by one or more parts, either at the same pitch or at some other pitch. Imitation may occur in the same note values, in augmentation (longer notes), or in diminution (shorter notes); in retrograde order (beginning at its end), mirror inversion (each ascending melodic interval becoming a descending interval, and vice versa), or retrograde mirror inversion; and so on. Canons range from folk rounds such as "Three Blind Mice" and "Frère Jacques" to the massively complex canons of Johann Sebastian Bach.
* * *▪ musicmusical form and compositional technique, based on the principle of strict imitation, in which an initial melody is imitated at a specified time interval by one or more parts, either at the unison (i.e., the same pitch) or at some other pitch. Such imitation may occur in the same note values, in augmentation (longer note values), or in diminution (shorter note values). Melodically, the original direction may be reversed, so that in imitation the tune is read backward (retrograde), or the intervals, while unchanged, are made to move in the opposite direction (mirror), or both (retrograde mirror).The oldest known canon is the 13th-century English round Sumer is icumen in (also called the Reading Rota; “rota” was a medieval term for round). This unique six-part composition is based on a four-voice canon that can be derived from a single notated part according to verbal instructions, or canones (“rules”). Two canonic supporting voices forming a ground bass (repeated bass pattern) complete the six parts.During the 15th century, canon became an important unifying device in settings of the mass. The Flemish composer Jean d'Okeghem composed his Missa prolationum (Prolation Mass) as a canon cycle in which a double canon is combined with a mensuration canon: two two-part canons proceed simultaneously at different rates of speed (i.e., mensurations).In the 18th century, Johann Sebastian Bach (Bach, Johann Sebastian) created two monumental canon cycles in his Art of the Fugue and Goldberg Variations. Arnold Schoenberg, Anton von Webern, and Paul Hindemith employed the technique extensively in the 20th century.Canons also occur in folk music—e.g., in the Balkans and in Africa. In western Europe, rounds (canons in strict imitation at the unison) such as “Frère Jacques” are a part of many community singing traditions, as were the English catches (wherein one part tries to “catch” the next) of the 17th and 18th centuries. Canons have also long been vehicles for inside jokes among musicians.
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