from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Any of several types of medieval vocal polyphony, usually based on Gregorian chant.
  • n. Variant of organon.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a type of medieval polyphony which builds upon an existing plainsong

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Same as organon.
  • n. In music: An organ.
  • n. Same as diaphony, 2.


Medieval Latin, from Late Latin, church organ, from Latin, instrument; see organ.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin organum, from Ancient Greek ὄργανον (organon, "organ, instrument, tool"). (Wiktionary)


  • Hucbald's principal achievement, however, consists in having given a theoretic basis to the custom of adding another melody to the chant of the Church, which custom he called organum, or diaphonia (see COUNTERPOINT; HARMONY), thereby laying the foundation for polyphony which developed from it.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 7: Gregory XII-Infallability

  • Nativitas gloriose virginis is a three-part organum, which is attributed to the medieval French composer Perotinus fl c.1200, who is also known as Pérotin.

    Archive 2009-05-01

  • He would have been peculiarly well fitted to give a truly scientific character to metaphysical studies, had it occurred to him to prepare the field by a criticism of the organum, that is, of pure reason itself.

    The Critique of Pure Reason

  • It's based on an overlapping seven-note tune - I think the technical term for this is 'organum' and dates from plainchant in the middle ages, but I could be wrong.

    Archive 2004-12-01

  • European philosophers from Plato to Nietzsche have begun their philosophizing from a starting-point which implied, as an essential part of their "organum" of enquiry, the possession by the human soul of some sort of aesthetic vision.

    The Complex Vision

  • He called his system an "organum" or "diaphony," and to sing according to his rules was called to "organize" or

    Critical and Historical Essays Lectures delivered at Columbia University

  • The name "organum" was dropped and the new system became known as tenor and descant, the tenor being the principal or foundation melody, and the descant or descants (for there could be as many as there were parts or voices to the music) taking the place of the organum.

    Critical and Historical Essays Lectures delivered at Columbia University

  • "organum" were notated in a very strange but absolutely accurate pitch notation, derived somewhat from ancient Greek music theory and based on disjunct tetrachords with a half step between the two middle notes.

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  • It was some years ago that I attended a concert of organum — three voices singing early medieval liturgical music — at the National Cathedral in Washington, a vast space.

    Rip up those carpets!

  • (Soundbite of a Gregorian chant) Mr. SMOOTH: The organum and the motet were based on taking a pre-existing Gregorian chant and putting a new melody on top of it in a higher register.

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