Continuo Collective of the South – Definitions

Basso Continuo

"Basso Continuo" is used both to refer to a method of music notation (see "figured bass," below) and to the core group of instruments who perform the notes prescribed by the notation (like the multiple-instrument core rhythm sections in rock or jazz ensembles).
Basso Continuo (often just abbreviated to "continuo") always consists of at least two instruments: one instrument capable of playing chords, such as a harpsichord, organ or lute, and a second instrument that can melodically render a bass line (such as a cello or bassoon). Basso Continuo emerged in the early 17th century and dominated musical composition and performance for almost two centuries.


Canon comes from Latin, meaning "rule" or "law." In music, a canon is a piece written for two or more voices or instrumental parts in which the same music is performed by each voice/part, with the entrances of this music staggered (such as "Row, Row, Row Your Boat") so that each voice has the theme and accompanies the other voices simultaneously.


Abbreviated term for Basso Continuo


This term is from Latin, and means "point against point." In music, it means "note against note." It is the compositional art of combining melodies in multiple ranges/voices; each melody becomes both independent and dependent in the intricate musical fabric.

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Figured Bass

Although this term often used in the same breath as "Basso Continuo" and "Continuo," "figured bass" more literally describes the notes that the Continuo musicians play. It is the method of music notation which indicates the bass line, and an integer system which prescribes the specific intervals and chords above the bass line. It is similar to modern-day guitar tablature or Fake Book notation.

Sonata Da Chiesa

This term means "Church Sonata." The sonata da chiesa form was originally developed for use in church music and almost always consists of four contrasting movements primarily distinguished by character of tempo in the format of I: slow, II: fast, III: slow and IV: fast.

Sonata Da Camera

This term is defined as "Chamber Sonata." The sonata da camera form was originally developed for use outside the church for secular occasions, and thus always includes a series of standard secular dances such as the Allemande, Gigue, and Minuet.

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