Meaning of Musical Canon

By | February 13, 2021

Before proceeding to determine the meaning of the term musical canon, it is necessary and essential to know the etymological origin of the two words that give it shape:
-Canon derives from Greek, specifically from “kanon”, which can be translated as “rule” or “Measuring stick”.
-Musical, on the other hand, also comes from Greek. It exactly comes from the sum of “musike” and the suffix “-al”, hence it can be translated as “relative to the muses”.

The idea of canon is used to name a catalog or a list that usually brings together what is considered a role model. Musical, for its part, is what is related to music: the combination of harmony, rhythm and melody.

The concept of musical canon, in this framework, can refer to the set of compositions considered of high culture that, due to their characteristics or their quality, manage to cross borders and eras.

In the field of music, the piece is also called canon which, of a contrapuntal type, is based on imitating two or more voices that are separated by an interval of time.

In this musical canon, an instrumental or vocal part is in charge of the interpretation of a melody; several measures later, a second part appears that repeats that melody. This repetition can be exact or present some type of change, for example in tonality. The process, on the other hand, may involve the participation of other voices.

The first voice in the musical canon is called the antecedent, proposal, or doge. The voices that are added later are known as consequents, responses, or eats.

There are multiple types of musical canon due to the enormous number of possible combinations. One can speak of canon spiral, round canon, canon by diminution, canon by augmentation, double canon or canon at the unison, among others. The German Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is considered the main creator of musical canons.

Other relevant aspects regarding the aforementioned musical canon are the following:
-It is considered that the first musical canons appeared back in the 13th century. They did it in countries such as Germany, England or France.
-One of the great first promoters of the musical canon was Machaut.
-It is considered that in the 17th century, by the hand of composers of the stature of Bach, the musical canon was fully developed, achieving a moment of maximum splendor.
-In addition to Bach, it is established that other great figures who became pillars of his success and development were composers of the stature of Beethoven, Haydn or Mozart.
-In order to carry out the creation of a musical canon, it must be established that several really important steps must be taken. Thus, you must be very clear about the measure in which you want to proceed to write it as well as the corresponding tonality. In the same way, you will also have to select the harmony and you must choose whether you want it to be instrumental or vocal.

Musical Canon