noun (plural cantus firmi /ˈfərˌmī/ /-mē/)Music
An existing melody used as the basis for a polyphonic composition.
- In the early years of the seventeenth century, English composers increasingly turned to the hexachord as a cantus firmus for keyboard pieces.
- Orgelbuchlein Pieces - Bach's ‘Little Organ Book’ consists of 45 short chorales mainly having the cantus firmus in the soprano voice with the lower voices acting as counterpoint to the chorale melodies.
- The cantus firmus is sounded in semibreves in the middle of the three voices.
Mid 19th century: from Latin, literally 'firm song'.
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Syllabification: can·tus fir·mus
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