canon, in Christianity, in the Roman Catholic Church, decrees of church councils are usually called canons; since the Council of Trent the expression has been especially reserved to dogmatic pronouncements of ecumenical councils. The body of ratified conciliar canons is a large part of the legislation of canon law. The Eucharistic central, mainly invariable part of the Mass is the canon. The term is also applied in the Western Church to certain types of priests. There are canons regular, priests living in community under a rule but not cloistered like monks; the Augustinian, or Austin, canons and the Premonstratensians are the best known of these. The priests attached to a cathedral or large church are sometimes organized into a group, or college, and called canons secular; a church having such a group is a collegiate church. A canon is also an official list, as in canonization, i.e., enrollment among the saints, and of the names of books of the Bible accepted by the church (see Old Testament; New Testament; Apocrypha; Pseudepigrapha). Cathedral canons often have diocesan charges or pastoral duties apart from the cathedral. Canons of the Church of England are mostly cathedral canons.
canon, in music, a type of counterpoint employing the strictest form of imitation. All the voices of a canon have the same melody, beginning at different times. Successive entrances may be at the same or at different pitches. Another form of canon is the circle canon, or round, e.g., Sumer Is Icumen In. In the 14th and 15th cent. retrograde motion was employed to form what is known as crab canon, or canon cancrizans, wherein the original melody is turned backward to become the second voice. In the 15th and 16th cent. mensuration canons were frequently written, in which the voices sing the same melodic pattern in different, but proportional, note values, i.e., to be sung at different speeds. Bach made noteworthy use of canon, particularly in the Goldberg Variations. Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Schumann, and Brahms wrote canons, and Franck used the device in the last movement of his violin sonata. It is an essential device of serial music.

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