Music / Pachelbel's Canon
aka: Canon In D

A very well-known piece of Classical Music. Written by Johann Pachelbel, it is the first movement of "Canon and Gigue in D", the less-famous second movement being more lively and dance-like. The canon involves a two-bar-long ostinato (repeating bass progression), over which three instrumental parts each play the same melodic material but starting at different times, each one displaced from the one before by a distance of two bars (one rotation of the ostinato) throughout the canon; this material is written in such a way that the three parts harmonize. The piece is usually performed with a string orchestra, but arrangements of it exist for almost every standard ensemble you can think of. Though Pachelbel was largely forgotten after his death (noted primarily for being a family friend/music tutor of the Bachs and thus indirectly influencing the works of J. S.), this piece's rediscovery in 1919 skyrocketed him to fame, albeit of the One-Hit Wonder variety.

Enjoy it by clicking here. Fun fact: The one we commonly hear about the canon is actually a rendition by the French conductor Jean-François Paillard in 1969. What he did was slowed down the tempo and tuned it in Romantic style. Here is the rendition played according to the original manuscripts (which is actually a half-step lower, in the key of D-flat major).

It is also known by the names "Canon in D", "Pachelbel's Canon in D", and "Kanon D-dur" (the German name, meaning "D major Canon"). The piece is, of course, in D major—Exactly What It Says on the Tin. This hasn't stopped it from being misattributed to everyone under the sun, particularly Mozart.

It's commonly featured in collections of "light" or "soothing" music, and is often played at weddings, second only to Lohengrin and Mendelssohn. It is also a popular selection for use in Public Domain Soundtracks. It's the Free Bird of classical music, exacerbated by its own repetitiveness: cellists in particular detest it because it involves playing the same 8-note progression 27 times without variation.

The piece is the Trope Namer and Trope Codifier for the "Pachelbel's Canon" Progression.

By the way, "canon" the musical term has nothing to do with "canon" the literary term for a creator's definitive body of work. Also, don't confuse it with pieces of music that use cannons, which you'll find under Orchestral Bombing. Funnily enough, most versions nowadays aren't actually canons.

It has been used in the following works:

Alternative Title(s): Pachelbels Canon, Canon In D