A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Canto

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CANTO (Lat. Cantus; Fr. Chant). With the Italians this word has a great variety of acceptations; e. g. music, instrumental as well as vocal; the motif, subject or leading idea, of a musical composition; the art and practice of singing; a section of a poem, etc., etc. Canto fermo or cantus firmus is the tune or melody of an ancient hymn on which a motet is founded, and which remains firm to its original shape while the parts around it are varying with the counterpoint. Technically canto is more generally understood to represent that part of a concerted piece to which the melody is assigned. With the old masters this was, as a rule, the Tenor; with the modern it is almost always the Soprano. Thence canto (voice as well as part) has become synonymous with soprano. The canto clef is the C clef on the first line—
{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \clef soprano { s4 } }

[ J. H. ]