Definition of organum in US English:



  • (in medieval music) a form of early polyphony based on an existing plainsong.

    • ‘In an organum piece, a fragment of an older melody is slowed down to the point where it almost becomes a drone.’
    • ‘In 1620 he published his Novum organum, presenting his philosophy of science in the form of aphorisms, many of them memorable.’
    • ‘The opening motif of the second part is extremely Debussian in its parallel organum chords, much as in Debussy's Nuages of 1899.’
    • ‘They bring in a full drum kit for ‘Painted Chariot’, but it's mild, stumbling rock, with an organum interlude plopped in the middle for continuity.’
    • ‘Plainchant melodies, or sections of them, were taken as cantus firmi in the earliest forms of polyphony (e.g. organum, clausula) and in the 13th and 14th-century motet and some early mass movements.’


Latin, from Greek organon, literally ‘instrument, organ’.