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Definition and background:
Term referring to the earliest kind of polyphonic music. Organum developed from the practice of adding voices above a plainchant ( cantus firmus); these added voices at first ran parallel to the plainchant at an interval of a fourth or fifth. Later they began to move about more freely. Organum was in use from about the 12th through the 13th centuries.
a polyphonic composition based on plainchant. In organum, a new line (the vox organalis) is added to the original plainchant line (the vox principalis) and uses the same text as the original. In settings of organum, sections of a chant that were originally sung by the choir remain as plainchant, so an alternation of polyphony and monophony results. See parallel organum, note-against-note organum, florid organum, and Notre-Dame organum.
earliest types of polyphony
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