round, in music, a perpetual canon on a tune that returns to its beginning in which all the voices enter at the unison or the octave. An example is Sumer Is Icumen In. Rounds were popular in 17th-century England when the catch reached its height. The catch was originally just a simple round, e.g., Three Blind Mice, written in a single line with the effect gained by having another singer come in ("make the catch") at the right time. Later, comic effects, often quite bawdy, were added, using the interweaving of the parts. The Rounds, Catches and Canons of England (1864) by E. F. Rimbault is a comprehensive collection. The term round was also used to designate a dance performed in a circle and, by extension, to the tunes for such dances.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.