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changing note

changing note or nota cambiata (It.). Idiomatic melodic formula, salient characteristic of which is leap of a third away from an unessential note. Earliest form (in the polyphonic age) was a 3-note figure (a). This was soon joined and eventually superseded by a 4-note idiom (b). In the harmonic age of counterpoint (from Bach and Handel onwards) a variety of other changing note figures appears (c) (d) (e).

In USA the term cambiata is in common use for ‘changing note’. Also when the leap of 3rd is in the dir. opposite to that of the step-wise movt. the term échappé is sometimes used, and, where the movt. is back to the orig. note, the term returning tone.

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