In 1823 the German journal Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung published an article by J. J. Wagner entitled Ideen über Musik, which states the following:1
… an die Stelle des Vortrages, der die Darstellung dem Gemüthe unterwirft, tritt eine Darstellung, die mit nothdürftiger und kalter Beobachtung des Richtigen nach dem Seltenen, ja Seltsamen und Abentheuerlichen jagt, und es geht solcher Musik ganz das verloren, was man gewöhnlich und richtig das cantabile nennt, und was wire eben als das Höchste in aller Musik zu bezeichnen gedenken. … Wo dieses cantabile sich verliert, da tritt, wenn nicht eine gänzliche musikalische Anarchie, doch Künstlichkeit an die Stelle der Kunst.
[… in the place of performances, which subdues the representation of the passions, appears a representation that with thinner and more distant observation pursues what is right according to what is seldom, yes, strange and adventuresome, and it follows that such music loses all of what one normally and rightly names the cantabile, and what we remember to describe as the highest in all of music. … Where this cantabile is lost, there appears, if not entire musical anarchy, then artificiality in the place of art.]
 According to Wagner, in the absence of cantabile2 there is either "artificiality in the place of art" or "total musical anarchy." The Oxford English Dictionary defines anarchy as "a state of disorder due to lack of government or control." This implies that cantabile was, for the majority of musicians, an aspect of musical government. Operating within the realms of the concrete and the abstract, this government "ruled" through an articulated hierarchy of musical mechanics, aesthetics and style to which were attributed varying degrees of value. This value system maintained a position of virtually unchallenged authority for most of the eighteenth century and into the first decades of the nineteenth. At the pinnacle of this hierarchy was an idealized style and aesthetic of cantabile, illustrated in the following definition from 1810 by Domenico Corri:3
Cantabile … this may justly be called the superlative of all Styles, and is the source of every other, like a River furnishing various streams; the elegance of taste in Singing originates from the touching and beautiful effect of this Style, from, as the Bard expresses; its "Notes of linked sweetness drawn out." The cantabile comprehends all soft, slow movements, where all the charms of Vocal Music may be combined—the Messa di Voce, the Portamento, Tempo Rubato, [etc.]: here are used to their full extent, united with an elegant and noble delivery of the words.
To Corri, cantabile was the "superlative of all Styles," the highest, the ultimate in music.
 In fact, it should be emphasized that in contemporary writings cantabile was not only ubiquitous, but also viewed unanimously as positive. One would be hard-pressed to find negative references to cantabile in the literature—regardless of author, context or date. To J. J. Wagner, cantabile was so essential that instead of equating its absence with inferiority or inadequacy, he equated it on the practical level with chaos, to the point of inability to function, and, metaphysically, with the loss of the highest ideal. This is consistent with most discussions of cantabile.4 Whatever the reason for this—and it may be a reflection of collective faith in an established norm and resistance to change—the supreme position of cantabile went unchallenged in the eighteenth-century musician's mind.
 This investigation seeks to uncover aspects of eighteenth-century cantabile that have been largely ignored by musical scholarship. In a previous search for definitions of cantabile, I discovered that significant musical dictionaries such as the New Grove and Musik im Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG) are selective about which constructions of cantabile's meanings to represent. The MGG highlights quality of sound and expressive markings, while the New Grove mentions cantabile as a performance ideal and nineteenth-century aria type.5 It is time for a more comprehensive construction of cantabile's joint meanings to be acknowledged and articulated, so that it can become a more understood part of our understanding of eighteenth-century music. These meanings include certain musical characteristics such as a slow tempo, meter and affect; a label of sorts for vocal arias with these qualities; and an aesthetic ideal, pursued by composers and performers. These interconnected facets are what I will call mini-constructions of meaning, in the sense that they are related concepts with certain, often separate connotations; these meanings I hope to connect.
 An attempt to delineate cantabile's constructed meanings opens up the larger, pertinent discussion of how to arrive at meaning—or definition of meanings—in general. In his book Defining Reality, Edward Schiappa opens chapter two with the statement that "[m]undane definitions are those conventionally accepted definitions that delineate 'the real' for a given discourse community (cf. Rescher 1977)."6 Schiappa goes on to divide meaning into the two categories of essence (what X actually is) and usage (how X is used), two different things that are frequently assumed to be the same in everyday communication. The distinction between essence and use should be kept in mind, but it is also imperative to realize that both are in flux with the passage of time. Each evolves from one day to the next, slowly shifting what is and perhaps also what is practiced through the mouths and pens of people. In the case of this study, "the real" is the concept cantabile and the discourse community spans from the early to late eighteenth century. This community provided ample information about how the term cantabile was used. It is another, rather impossible, matter to infer what it actually was at that particular time in history, and in this article I will concentrate on the former.
 The constructions of cantabile's meanings operated in two broad but intricately related spheres during the eighteenth century. The first consists of music composed for the voice, and the second is music composed explicitly for instruments. After centuries of vocal music's domination in both the sacred and secular realms, the seventeenth century witnessed the explosive developments of instrument construction and virtuosic performers. These trends continued during the early eighteenth century, and by the second half of the century—during and after the primarily instrumental composers like Antonio Vivaldi, J.S. Bach and others—instrumental music achieved a status approaching equality with vocal music that was previously unknown. Cantabile as a stylistic quality and ideal sound was therefore no longer used primarily in relation to vocal music, but began to be transferred to instrumental music in a variety of ways. One obvious distinction is that whereas for vocalists, cantabile was a standard of how to sing, for instrumentalists cantabile required an imitation of a different medium—the vocal.
 One influence grew out of the earlier doctrine of the affections, referring to the associations made by composers and audiences between one primary passion or emotion and any given piece, or movement, of music. Discussion of affetti cantabili took place as early as the beginning of the seventeenth century in a preface by Girolamo Frescobaldi; the context was tempo in instrumental music outside of a strict tactus or measured beat, used expressively in a way analogous to the elasticity granted for text expression in vocal music.7 Over time, these affects were discussed more systematically using meters, tempos and dance types to categorize trends in common practice. Johann Mattheson was an influential German writer and theorist in the first half of the eighteenth-century, and he devised a complex system of categorization for the affects. Mattheson is credited as the pioneer8 and chief advocate of the affect-theory, not only through being the first known theorist to use the term Affektenlehre, but also, under the auspices of that term, to codify the affects in his treatise Der vollkommende Capellmeister of 1739. For Mattheson, these qualities were clearly illustrated in instrumental dance types such as the minuet, courante and gigue—all of which were governed by one or more passions.9 In fact, Mattheson went to the point of dividing a single affect into several descriptive aspects:
Since no one has ever said or even thought this before, it might be assumed that I am looking for something that is not present in the thing itself, that I am inventing all this. However, I can demonstrate that the above [musical example] three particulars (courage, yearning, joy) and the resulting affect (hope) can and must be found in a courante.10
This may seem like amusing speculation today, but for Mattheson this was a serious construction of a reality essential to the discourse of his musical community.
 The mid-century produced another figure significant for the categorization of common musical practice. J. J. Quantz was a flute player employed at the court of Frederick the Great of Prussia, to whom his treatise Versuch einer Einweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen of 1752 was dedicated. In his discussion 'Of the Manner of Playing the Adagio' (Adagio could refer to any slow movement) he states that the Cantabile may occur in 3/8 time, and should be filled out with certain types of embellishments.11 In a later chapter directed at strings, he groups the Cantabile together with the markings Arioso, Soave, Dolce and poco Andante, stating that all must be "executed quietly, and with a light bow-stroke."12 These tempo markings were thus indicative of more than speed of playing; they embodied specific sentiments or passions to be illustrated by the performer. To Quantz, awareness of this character merited a list of four qualities performers should use to determine the dominant sentiment or mood of a given piece. He states that good execution must be "audrückend, und jeder vorkommenden Leidenschaft gemäß seyn," or "expressive, and appropriate to each passion that one encounters," and continues with the following guidelines:
- whether or not the key is major or minor (a minor key is used for the expression of the flattering, melancholy and tender)
- whether the intervals between the notes are great or small, and whether the notes themselves ought to be slurred or articulated … melancholy and tenderness are expressed by slurred and close intervals … dotted and sustained notes express the serious and the pathetic; long notes, such as semibreves or minims, intermingled with quick ones express the majestic and sublime
- the passions may be perceived from the dissonances
- the fourth indication of the dominant sentiment is the word found at the beginning of each piece, such as Allegro, Allegro non tanto,—assai,—di molto,—moderato, Presto, Allegretto, Andante, Andantino, Arioso, Cantabile, Spiritoso, Affetuoso, Grave, Adagio, Adagio assai, Lento, Mesto and so forth. Each of these words, if carefully prescribed, requires a particular execution in performance.
Several comments within the second guideline are of particular interest. Quantz mentions that the size of intervals indicates mood and states that the qualities of melancholy and tenderness are expressed by close, connected intervals while sustained, long notes express the serious and the pathetic. All of these attributes apply to cantabile, especially the last quality of sustained sound. In a slow tempo, this requires few notes, while fast-moving notes in virtuosic passages were sometimes considered to be anti-cantabile.
 The use of the word pathetic forms an interesting link between this instrumental application and its precedent, the aria type dating from the early part of the century. In his treatise of 1723 entitled Opinioni de' cantori antichi e moderni,13 renowned vocal pedagogue Pier Francesco Tosi uses aria patetica as a synonym for aria cantabile, which he calls "delightful and soothing;" both are juxtaposed against the Allegro. This is perhaps the first known use of the term cantabile as an aria type.14 In a twentieth-century study of aria typology, Reinhard Strohm gives a useful list of eighteenth-century sources from Italy, France, Germany, England and Scotland (Figure 1). Tosi is listed third, but he is the first to include cantabile.15
Figure 1. Strohm's List of Eighteenth-century Sources of Arias from Italy, France, Germany, England and Scotland.
- Martello 1714: aria d'azione—(Aria ohne Handlung) aria di sdegno—aria d'amore
- Marcello 1720: aria di sdegno, a. presta, a. patetica, a. allegra, a. strepitosa, a. gaia
- Tosi 1723: aria patetica, a. cantabile, a. allegra, a. rotta
- Riva 1727 (bei F. Degrada): aria allegra—(Arie mit "parole di dolore")
- De Brosses 1739 (lt. Hucke a.a.O): aria à grand fracas, a. passionné, airs qui sont des madrigaux
- Algarotti 1756: a. cantabile, a. di bravura, a. di collera, a. parlante
- Goldoni 1761: a. patetica, a. di bravura, a. parlante, a. di mezzo carattere, a. brillante
- Hiller 1774: a. di bravura, a. di strepito, a. d'espressione, a. cantabile
- Burney 1789 (lt. Hucke a.a.O.): a. parlante, a. cantabile, a. d'abilità, a. di bravura, a. di mezza bravura (= di mezzo bravura (= di mezzo carattere?)
- Brown 1789: a. cantabile, a. di portamento, a. di mezzo carattere, a. di bravura oder d'agilità
 The aria allegra was the most common type until Algarotti in 1756; after that the aria di bravura, an aria full of virtuosic display, was used in all five sources. The cantabile was also used five times (inconsistently), but covering a longer period of time—over 60 years from 1723 until 1789. The cantabile existed earlier and was probably used longer than most aria types; at least it maintained a recognizable identity in name and character for many decades.
 An underlying association exists between these vocal types and the tempo markings already discussed in relation to Quantz and Mattheson; J. H. Van der Meer and Bernard Flögel of the last century devised categorizations of aria types with these markings as headers. Flögel's chart (Figure 2) gives an interesting overview of aria types and related dance forms used by Handel, under the three headings of fast, moderate, and slow tempos:16
Figure 2. Flögel's Aria Types and Related Dance Forms by Handel.
|Allegro||Andante||Largo-Adagio (3/8, 3/4, 4/4)|
|"volkstümlich" arias||arioso||free cantabile arias|
|arias influenced by dance forms, esp. minuet, gavotte, gigue||"mixed affects"||influenced by dance forms sarabande, siciliano (12/8)|
As a style always occurring in a slow tempo, cantabile belongs in the slow category, but what is interesting is the use of both triple and duple time signatures in the arias that Flögel examined.17 Preferences for one meter above another seemed to change depending on the exact time in history.
 As Quantz mentioned in point four of his previously cited list, these tempo markings were placed at the head of a work or movement and indicated the speed in which the work should be played as well as an associated type of expression. Although present as early as 1716 in arias by Alessandro Scarlatti—in these cases joined with another term, as in adagio cantabile or andante cantabile—in instrumental music the marking cantabile begins to show up during the 1760s in the music of Haydn, Mozart and, later, Beethoven. These composers preferred particular genres and media in which they used the term. Cantabile occurs 15 times in Haydn's string quartets, primarily within the expressions Adagio cantabile and Largo cantabile. Mozart used the marking 17 times in his piano sonatas, once coupled with Adagio (in the Musical Joke, K. 522) and the remainder with Andante. Like Mozart, Beethoven restricts his use of the term to works for piano; he included the marking in each of the nine piano sonatas op. 78–111—composed between 1809–22. In these sonatas, cantabile is joined with the terms Adagio, Andante, and for the first time, Moderato for a slightly quicker tempo.18 Cantabile did not occur alone until the early nineteenth-century, when it became widely used in solo piano music and as a sectional marker in the formal aria scene.19 By then, the word cantabile alone had become sufficient to evoke both the tempo and character that previously necessitated two words.
 Tempo-markings, affect and/or emotion and dance types comprise the three centers of power in the eighteenth-century musical government. In this government, cantabile exercised restraint in the following ways: on speed, which was slow; on emotions, which were dignified, noble and pathetic; on intervals, which were narrow, usually moving by step; and on the number of notes, which were few, and limited the display of virtuosity. A question that comes to mind is why would musicians and audiences submit to this constrictive musical rule? One plausible explanation is found in the writing of John Locke:20
If man in the state of Nature be so free as has been said, if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest and subject to nobody, why will he part with his freedom, this empire, and subject himself to the dominion and control of any other power? To which it is obvious to answer, that though in the state of Nature he hath such a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain and constantly exposed to the invasion of others… This makes him willing to quit this condition which, however free, is full of fears and continual dangers; and it is not without reason that he seeks out and is willing to join in society with others who are already united, or have a mind to unite for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name—property.
In this discussion of government from the late seventeenth century, Locke brings up two reasons why people are motivated to submit to government in society: the desire for security and enjoyment of one's property. An analogy could be made that for musicians, rewards of order, protection against disorder and chaos, and sometimes further rewards of financial security and popular success were obtained through submission to the norms of the ruling power.
 What was the nature of this ruling musical power? During the eighteenth century the particulars of melody, harmony and rhythm were expected to subscribe to the formal qualities of balance, proportion and rational rhetoric. The presence or absence of these formal qualities was used as a value judgment. A quality work was considered to subscribe to these principles, while an inadequate work did not.21 Reaction against this musical control was one aspect of the movement of romanticism, in which composers began using musical language outside of these formal and harmonic parameters. Elements of this new language were: extreme emotional expression manifested in new harmonies further away from a tonal center, new forms such as the tone poem and program symphony, and unprecedented feats of virtuosity in works by composers such as Paganini and Liszt.22
 This shift in musical aesthetics between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries can be illustrated by an analogous move in philosophy away from tranquility and elegance to something grander, more active, powerful and disturbing. Immanuel Kant's writing on the Beautiful and the Sublime from 1764 illustrates a move away from what were perceived to be more docile and feminine characteristics towards more active and masculine ones.23 According to Kant, the sublime is English, Spanish and German; the beautiful is French and Italian. The sublime is in the mountains, while the beautiful is in the meadows. The sublime is night, and the beautiful is day. The sublime moves, while beauty only charms. In her commentary on these passages, Elaine Scarry summarizes that "[f]ormerly capable of charming or astonishing, now beauty was the not-astonishing; as it was also the not-male, the not-mountainous…, the not-night."24 Kant's discussion of the Sublime and the Beautiful illustrates the polarization found in discussions of cantabile, in which cantabile is always the desired property. Also relevant is the desire for new dimensions in aesthetic experience, which is one similar, driving force behind the move from classicism to romanticism in music.
 Contemplation of the duplicitous nature of cantabile is reminiscent of the two-sided ordinary occurrences in Kathleen Stewart's Ordinary Affects.25 Stewart shows that it is possible for something commonplace—such as an observation of a blade of grass moistened by early morning dew—to feel profound. It is also possible for something horrible, which seems like it should feel profound, to become commonplace through repetition, over-exposure and distance. In a similar way, the ubiquitous and highly repetitive quality of cantabile seems to show two similarly contradictory realities. First, its sheer prevalence makes it seem boring and less important. Second, the constant elevation of cantabile is suspicious. How can such an incessant platitude reflect reality? Were eighteenth-century performers and audiences in a frequent state of disappointment? Or was the entire concoction of this mega-ideal a construction used to deceive the music-loving portion of the population into thinking they were qualified judges of cantabile? And since majority rules, perhaps audiences were conditioned to think that everything was cantabile. In that case, cantabile may have been a purely perfunctory, ritualistic presentation of an expected musical norm—or a yet-to-be-explored matter of the inflammatory nature of eighteenth-century taste, based largely on upbringing, social class and education.
 By the 1820s the 'cantabile government' was under siege. The authority of the affects (including tempo markings and the passions) and the cantabile aria type was questioned. These earlier strongholds of musical power began to evolve and move in new directions. Cantabile must have been beautiful indeed to garner such widespread acclaim, and at first its passing does seem like a tragic loss. However, in view of cantabile's power to constrain musicians, repress invention and cause what may have been a period of stylistic stagnation, this loss might not have been such a negative occurrence after all.