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Round

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Round

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A round is a musical composition in which two or more voices sing exactly the same melody, beginning at different times. "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" is a well known children's round for 4 voices.

When the voices enter at different pitches, the composition is a canon, and still more complicated pieces are fugues. A catch is a round where a catch phrase appears split among several voices.

History

The oldest surviving canon in English is "Sumer Is Icumen In", which is for 4 voices, plus 2 bass voices singing a ground (that is a never changing repeating part). The first published rounds in English were printed by Thomas Ravenscroft in 1609; "Three Blind Mice" appears in this collection, although in a somewhat different form from today's children's round:

Three Blinde Mice,
 
three Blinde Mice,
 
Dame Iulian,
 
Dame Iulian,
 
The Miller and his merry olde Wife,
 
shee scrapte her tripe licke thou the knife.
 

Many of the rounds printed by Ravenscroft also appear in a 1580 manuscript (KC 1), and several are mentioned in Shakespeare's plays, so these little ditties seem to have been quite popular.

Mechanics

What makes a round work is that after the work is divided into equal-sized blocks of a few measures each, corresponding notes in each block either are the same, or are different notes in the same chord. This is easiest with one chord, as in "Row, Row, Row Your Boat:

A new part can join the singing by starting at the beginning whenever another part reaches any asterisk in the above music. If one ignores the sixteenth notes that pass between the main chords, every single note is in the tonic triad—in this case, a C, E, or G.

Many rounds involve more than one chord, as in Frère Jacques:

The texture is simpler, but it uses a few more notes; this can perhaps be more easily seen if all four parts are run together into the same two measures:

The second beat of each measure does not sketch out a tonic triad, it outlines a dominant seventh chord (or "V7 chord").

Many different chord progressions are theoretically possible in a round, but it can be very challenging to keep each part sounding different and yet still melodic as they trace out the appropriate chords.

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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