Well, I did, indeed, roam around Ms. Hart’s website last night as I mentioned I would do. Sure enough, there is a lot of neat stuff there! Among the neat stuff is something that has educated me a bit about music, in particular about what the nature of a canon in music is.
Apparently a canon is a piece of music in which several different instruments (“voices”) play the same bit of music but enter into it in sequence, one right after the other, so that the play is staggered. (Think: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” with multiple voices staggering the singing, except prettier and with musical instruments.)
One of the most famous of canons is Pachelbel’s Canon or Canon in D major. Actually, my wife and I had that played at our wedding when our mothers were taken down the aisle, if I recall. However, it is often heard arranged as a solo piece–say, for piano–which actually means the arrangement is not a canon, based on the above definition.
Enter Ms. Hart’s website. If you really want to get a sense for what a canon is and to see the mechanics of a canon illustrated in a fascinating but clear way, head on over to Ms. Vi Hart’s “Music Box” page and watch her (and her fellow musicians) perform Pachelbel’s Canon on multiple music boxes. (In addition to illustrating the nature of a canon, it also illustrates the technique of basso ostinato or basso continuo.) The video has text commentary that explains what is going on. It really is an amazingly simple but effective visualization of what a canon is, and kudos to the performers.
While I recommend visiting her page, she also has an embeddable YouTube video of the performance which I have included below. Enjoy!