An Extensive Encyclopedic Music Dictionary

An Extensive
Traditional and Folk Music
Encyclopedic Dictionary

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(Section C2)


CBC Canada’s national public TV and radio network, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Partly commercial and partly government funded, it presents a wide variety of artists who might not have an opportunity to be on purely commercial networks. Its detractors occasionally refer to it as "The Corpse", but it’s a national treasure.

ceilidh (pron. "kaylee") a Gaelic word meaning an informal gathering, usually for the purpose of music and song. It could also be extended to mean a special night of both dance and music at the local folk club, featuring Scottish and/or Irish traditions.

celesta (also "celeste") a type of xylophone using tuned steel plates, but with wooden resonators, somewhat like the vibraphone. 2.A small keyboard instrument developed in the later 19th century and using hammers that strike metal bars to give a ringing sound. Tchaikovsky used the celesta, then a new instrument, in his Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy in his Nutcracker ballet.

cell. (set-theory) a small set used as a structural building block. e.g. a,c,c# in Scriabin's op. 74, no.4. Most often this is a pc-set used vertically (harmonically) or horizontally (melodically).

cello the second-largest member of the violin family, well-suited to song accompaniment because of its warm tones. It’s tuned C G D A, one octave below the viola. Because of its size, it’s always played in an upright position. It’s usually bowed, but can be played pizzicato. 2.The word cello is now in very general use instead of the longer word violoncello, a diminutive of the word violone, indicating the big viol, the double bass of the bowed viol family. The cello normally plays the bass line of the string section in an orchestra, its register the approximate equivalent of the lowest male voice.

Celtic (pron. "Keltik") in pre-Roman times, the Celtic people had a empire that went from the British Isles to the Middle East. Eventually they were driven apart by various conquerors, leaving the Scots, Irish, and Welsh. Some Celtic influence remains in Brittany on the west coast of France, and on the Isle of Man. The common language is Gaelic, although each branch has its own dialect. In general, Celtic music refers to music from these areas, whether or not the words (if any) are in Gaelic. If a fiddler is said to have Celtic influences, it usually means that the music contains Irish and/or Scottish tunes. People who play up-tempo versions might refer to it as "Celtic Boogie".

Cembalo-The word 'cembalo' is usually used to indicate the harpsichord.

cent in our equal-tempered scale, each semitone is subdivided into 100 cents, with 1200 cents being an octave. The unit is rarely used by anyone but researchers into scales, although it does turn up on the displays of electronic tuners. The advantage to the cent is that it gives a standard pitch-change value that’s independent of the numbers used to do the calculation (i.e., 256/243 doesn’t mean much in terms of pitch, but it’s 90.2 cents, nearly a semitone). Most people can’t hear pitch differences less than about 5-10 cents (see pitch discrimination. Some numbers: The cent is the 1200th root of 2, or about 1.0005778. The difference in cents between two notes can be calculated by 3986.3 times log(f1/f2), where f1 is the higher frequency.

For references to the tuning of scales, see temperament. See also twelfth root of two.

Chaconne-A chaconne (= Italian: ciaconna; earlier English: chacony) is in origin a dance popular in Spain in the early 17th century. It came to signify a form in which there are a series of variations over a short repeated bass or chordal pattern. Famous examples of the form are found in Bach's Chaconne for unaccompanied violin in his D minor Partita or the earlier Chacony in G minor by Henry Purcell.

Chad Mitchell Trio formed in 1958, they were popular until disbanding in 1967. The original members were Mike Kobluk, Chad Mitchell, and Mike Pugh, with Jim (Roger) McGuinn on guitar and banjo. Mitchell left in 1965 for a solo career and was replaced by Denver, John. They recorded many albums, and appeared with Belafonte, Harry at Carnegie Hall.

chain (UK measure) 22 yards, or four rods.

Chamber music-Chamber music is music for a small ensemble of instruments, intended for performance in a room or chamber, as opposed to a church or larger building.

Chamber orchestra-A chamber orchestra has come to indicate an orchestra smaller in size than the usual symphony orchestra.

chance-music. music composition in which chance or random operations play some role (through composition or performance). Chance is sometimes confused with aleatory, a European term that uses controls. It is also often confused with indeterminacy, which refers to a performance practice, rather than to composition.

Chandler, Dillard a North Carolina singer in the a cappella traditional style. He performed old-timey songs and ballads at various festivals in the 60s and has recorded for Folkways.

Chandler, Len (1935- ) popular as a solo performer (guitar and vocals) in the NYC area in the 60s, Len performed widely at clubs and festivals, and recorded for a number of labels, such as Folkways and Columbia. He is the author of (among many other songs) "Rattlin’ Rumblin’ Train" and "Beans in My Ears", and arranged one of many skipping songs into "Green Rocky Road", which has been recorded by several others.

change ringing a sort of folk music - it’s obscure and performed by a minority of dedicated people; the difference is that lots of people get to hear it. It consists of a group of practitioners ringing church bells - the "changes" (which are notated) are passed along through the sub-subculture just like folk songs. Also called "ringing the changes".

changing-tones. see cambiata.

channerin (UK) fretting, petulant, overly active.

Chanson-A chanson is a French song. The word is used to indicate songs from the troubadour compositions of the Middle Ages to the art-songs of the 19th and 20th centuries.

chant 1. (v.) To sing a simple melody in a repetitious way. 2. (n.) A simple, rhythmic song used to set the pace of work. See also shanties, hollers, worksongs, lining track. 3. See Gregorian chant, plainsong.

chanter see bagpipes.

chanterelle (archaic, also "cantino") the highest-pitched string on a stringed instrument.

chantey see shanties.

chapbook a small book of tales, ballads, fables, etc., sold by hawkers known as "chapmen". See also balladmonger.

Chapel-The word chapel (= Latin: cappella, capella; French: chapelle; German: Kapelle) signifies, in the ordinary sense, a place of worship. In music it may be used to indicate a group of musicians employed by the church or by the court, as in the English Chapel Royal, the group of musicians employed by the English monarch, or, in later continental terminology, any musical establishment.

Chapin, Harry (1942-1981) a singer/songwriter with great appeal to folkies because of his clever lyrics and singable tunes. His best songs are of the narrative type: "Cat’s in the Cradle", "W.O.L.D.", and "Taxi". He was killed in a car accident while travelling to a benefit concert.

chart music notation - see lead sheet.

Charters, Sam American folklorist and collector specialising in the blues, especially country blues. Through his efforts, many of the blues performers who had recorded race records in the 1920s to the 1950s were rediscovered in the folk revival of the 60s, such as Lewis, Furry. He has published his work in books such as "The Country Blues" (Rinehart & Co., 1959). Pickers and singers who are into the blues owe him an enormous debt.

cheat sheet 1. (also "idiot list") A list of songs that a performer tapes to an instrument, usually a guitar, for reference when the pressures of the stage cause those blank moments. 2. A lead sheet.

cheater see capo.

cheironomy see chironomy.

chemical toilets (also "johns", "Johnny On The Spot ™") as much a part of festivals as mud. Some are vile, some are tolerable. Everyone likes a festival held on a site where these aren’t necessary.

Chenier, Clifton (1925-1987) dominated zydeco music and was greatly responsible for its popularity. There are at least a dozen of his albums on Arhoolie. He played festivals throughout North America and was popular in Europe.

Chieftains an Irish traditional group playing together since the 50s; it was not until the 70s that the Chieftains achieved fame in North America, starting an awareness of the richness of instrumental Irish music. Some of this fame was due to the soundtrack of Kubrick’s film "Barry Lyndon". The Chieftains play Irish bagpipes, whistles, flutes, bodhran, concertina, harp and other instruments. They have a large number of albums.

chiels (Scot.) clothes.

Child ballad see Child, F.J..

Child see Child, F.J.

Child, F.J. Francis James Child (1825-1896) was a Harvard professor who collected by correspondence a vast number of ancient British ballads, many of them in five or more versions. He began work on the enormous 10-part, five-volume "English and Scottish Popular Ballads" in 1882 (although his collecting and publishing began much earlier). The last volume was published posthumously in 1898, and a condensed version was published by his editor and his daughter in the early 1900s. The Child collections contain 305 titles and are an invaluable source to singers and researchers alike. His influence on traditional balladry was so strong that some singers have recorded songs titled only with the Child number (this is seen as a bit pretentious by most folkies). Child’s great gift to the traditional world, and no small part of the gift was his sorting through the bowdlerised versions to get at the original, was not without its down side; for instance, the songs he chose to immortalise tended to be powerful epics only, and it was left up to other collectors to sanctify the simpler, yet equally valid songs. Some see the 305 ballads as a sort of best-of traditional hit parade, which is certainly unfair to the songs Child chose to ignore (he felt folksong had to be rural in origin, and passed over the many city ballads). See also Bronson, Bertrand for comments on the lack of tunes in the Child books, and the latter part of collectors for comments on songs missed or ignored by Child.

children’s folk since the 70s, a large number of performers have specialised in bringing folk music of all types to young people through school appearances, recordings, TV and festival children’s areas. They’ve done a wonderful job of ending the poor presentation of folk music by schoolteachers who didn’t understand it. Many people came away from school thinking that folk songs were simplistic and stupid, but as performer Michael Cooney observed, it was the schools that were dumb. Some famous members of the Ontario branch of children’s folk: Raffi, Sharon, Lois and Bram, and Eric Nagler. (If you want the best in children’s folk, who ya gonna call? Ontario. Good on them.)

chironomy (also "cheironomy") indicating the pitch of notes to singers by means of hand motions. This was used in the days before notation, and applies particularly to Gregorian chant. One system used the elevation of the hand, and another using points on the left hand was developed by Guido d’Arezzo (our do-re-mi note syllables are attributed to him). Interestingly, "chiromancy" is a word meaning "palmistry".

chitarrone see theorbo.

Choir-A choir is a group of singers. The word is generally used to indicate such a group in a church, or the part of the church in which such a group is normally placed.

chops synonymous with licks. Rarely used. Interestingly, it can have the opposite meaning to virtuoso playing: "chopping" or "chopping fours" means playing a safe, dull rhythm.

Chorale prelude-The chorale prelude, an introduction to a chorale, was developed in 17th century Germany as an organ composition based on a chorale melody. The form is found in the later 17th century in the work of Buxtehude and in the early 18th century most notably in the 45 chorale preludes of Johann Sebastian Bach.

chorale. a German hymn.-A chorale is a German Lutheran hymn-tune, a number of which were composed or arranged by Luther himself and adapted in later centuries to various harmonies, the most famous of all by Johann Sebastian Bach. The word is also used in America to signify a choir or chorus.

chord inversion the order of the notes of the chord from lowest to highest determines the inversion. For instance, with C major:

C-E-G root E-G-C first inversion G-C-E second inversion

The octave note(s) can be added without changing anything, as in the multiple notes in a guitar or piano chord; see octave equivalence. See also inversion for the way this is applied to intervals.


chord numbering see progression.

chord progression see progression.

chord shape an informal term (generally used by guitarists) to indicate what chords they’re using. The chords in use may not give the actual key due to the use of a capo. For instance, a guitarist using the chords C, F, and G might say, "It’s in the C-shape," although a capo on the third fret would make the key Eb.

chord three or more notes sounded simultaneously. Two notes together form an interval. See also major chord, progression, triad.

chord. three or more pitch-classes considered simultaneously. A chord must have at least three pcs in it, but these may or may not sound simultaneously; e.g., in a "broken chord" or arpeggio. A broken-chord is, nonetheless, a chord because its content is considered together as a group.

chord. suffix used with an appropriate prefix to designate a specific number of pitch classes considered to be a structural unit, e.g. dichord, trichord, tetrachord, hexachord, etc. 2.A chord is the simultaneous sounding of two or more notes. The adjective is chordal. The study of harmony involves the correct placing of chords with relation to each other.

chordal style characterising a tune with simple rhythms throughout. Also called isometric and homorhythmic. Most folksongs have simple rhythm (but see rubato).

chordophone an instrument whose sound comes from one or more tensioned strings, such as a guitar. It’s one of the four types of instruments; the others are aerophone, idiophone, and membranophone.

chord-progression. a series of chords that strengthens a key. The opposite is called a retrogression.

chord-tone. see: harmonic-tone.

chorus lines that are repeated after every verse of a chorus song. They may have a melody of their own, or may repeat the verse’s melody. The words may be taken from a verse, or unique, or they may be nonsense syllables (to me whack fol diddle all day). Also called refrain. Sometimes there is no separate chorus, but internal lines are repeated in every verse - see burden for an example of this. The singer might get an audience singing an unfamiliar song by calling out each line rapidly in a monotone - the audience then sings it. This is called "lining out". Audiences in folk clubs and at festivals will jump right into singing along on the chorus. First-timers sometimes find this unusual. See also madrigal, glee, harmony singing. 2. A chorus is a group of singers. The word is also used to indicate a refrain in a song.

Christmastide the week following Christmas.

Christofori, Bartolomeo see Cristofori, Bartolomeo.

Christy’s Minstrels a group founded in 1843 by Edwin Christy (1815-?) and popular in the NY area as well as the south. They were an important part of the minstrel show tradition that led to vaudeville. The name was the inspiration for the New Christy Minstrels.

chromatic an instrument that has all the sharps and flats of the chromatic scale, allowing it to play in any key. Guitars, pianos, mandolins, fiddles, banjos and accordions are all chromatic. Its opposite is diatonic. Diatonic instruments such as the harmonica, melodeon and dulcimer lack sharps and flats, and so can only play in one key (although the harmonica and melodeon might have buttons for extra notes, allowing another key or two, and the dulcimer can be retuned).

chromatic scale a scale made up entirely of semitones. The notes in the ascending chromatic scale would be:

C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C

and in the descending chromatic scale would be:

C B Bb A Ab G Gb F E Eb D Db C

Note the lack of a semitone between E and F, and B and C. See also enharmonic.

chromatic scale. a scale containing twelve equal divisions of the octave. Such a scale must contain notes of the same letter name, and, thus is chromatic.

chromatic. 1. pitches outside the prevailing key. 2. different notes with the same letter names, e.g. F and F#. Most scales contain all seven different letter names; thus, chromatic-notes are those outside of the key. 3. Chromatic notes are those that do not belong to the diatonic scale. If an ascending scale is taken from the note C, in the form C, D, E, F, etc., chromatic notes would be C# (C sharp), D# (DChromatic-sharp), etc., notes not found in the diatonic scale of C major, which has no sharps or flats. See also: chromatic-semitone and chromatic-scale.

chromatic-chord. a chord whose notes have been changed from diatonic to chromatic, i.e., chords containing notes outside of the key. E.g., a iv6 can be altered to an "Italian" augmented-sixth chord by raising the root. Chromatic chords usually evolve from the contrapuntal, linear structure of music.

chromatic-semitone. a half-step notated with the same letter name; e.g. C, C#.

chuffed (British slang) quite pleased.

church music had a tremendous influence on almost every type of folk music. The sacred harp style of singing originated in 18th century New England hymns and is the basis for many quasi-religious or secular contemporary songs. The southern white gospel style turns up in bluegrass all the time, and the black gospel style greatly influenced pop music. The style of church music and hymns is often reflected in the carol, and a cappella (unaccompanied by instruments) means literally "in the church style". See also Gregorian chant.

cimbalom (also "cimbal", "cimbalon") a hammered dulcimer.

circle of fifths (less often "cycle of fifths") if you start with C and jump ahead in fifths, you get:

C G D A E B F# C# G# D# A# F C

or in its more common form:

C G D A E B F# C# Ab Eb Bb F C

All the notes of the chromatic scale have been generated. You can buy linear or circular slide rules based on the circle of fifths; they give you the key signatures, the principal chords and so on. The entry for key signature shows how the number of sharps and flats relate to the circle of fifths. Note that if you’re working out the tuning of the notes, and you do this jumping-ahead using natural fifths of 3/2, you’ll never get to a proper octave because it’s too sharp, and some other notes will be askew - see comma of Pythagoras, Pythagorean scale, temperament.

circulating temperament see Pythagorean scale.

cittern (usually pron. "chittern"; often spelled this way) an instrument similar to a lute, but with a flat back. Generally strung with four courses of steel strings. Popular in Celtic music and related to the mandolin, although the richer sound is closer to the bouzouki.

claes (UK) clothes.

clam a wrong note or chord, or just about any really noticeable musical goof. In general, the mistake has to be a good one. Small clams that pass quickly by are "fluffs", "flubs", "clinkers", etc.

Clancy Brothers Irish folk group consisting of brothers Paddy, Tom and Liam, plus (usually) Makem, Tommy. They have been playing together since the 50s, doing traditional Irish songs, and have recorded many albums. Tommy Makem went on to a successful solo career. Along with the Chieftains, they have been widely influential in popularising Irish folk music.

Clarinet-A clarinet is a woodwind instrument with a single reed, as opposed to the oboe, which has a double reed. The clarinet was developed from the year 1800 onwards from the earlier chalumeau, which played notes only in the lower register. The new instrument added notes in the higher register. Clarinets are built in different keys, most commonly in B flat and in A.

Clarino-Clarino was the word often used in the 17th and 18th centuries for trumpet. Now the word describes the upper register of the trumpet, much used in the baroque period, when the trumpet, lacking valves, could only produce successive notes in the highest register, an art that later fell into temporary disuse.

Clark, Guy a Texas singer/songwriter who began in the folk revival, was influenced by his friends Walker, Jerry Jeff and Van Zandt, Townes, and whose music appeals to folk, country, and rock audiences. Songs of his include "Desperadoes Waiting for a Train", "LA Freeway", and "Last Gunfighter Ballad". Other of his songs have been performed by artists such as Ricky Scaggs and Emmylou Harris.

clashpans an archaic word for the cymbals, and one that should be brought back.

classical guitar a guitar with nylon strings and a fairly wide neck that joins the body at the 12th fret. The folk guitar generally has steel strings and a narrow neck that joins at the 14th fret.

classical this is mentioned because the word is used so often in this lexicon, particularly when it comes to the borrowing of folk tunes by composers. In the strictest sense, the term refers to the music of the mid-18th to the early 19th centuries - thus Mozart (1756-1791) was classical, but Bach (1685-1750) and Wagner (1813-1883) were not. In the general sense, it refers to the formal orchestral music of past composers, or present composers in the same vein, and that is the meaning whenever the term is used here. (A folkie arrangement of Bach is mentioned in the entry Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring). For reference, the periods are shown below. They’re meant only as a rough guide, since there would have been many overlaps of musical styles. Sometimes a classification is called on to do extra duty: "ancient" is often used to mean anything from prehistory to 100 years ago., ancient pre-1000 , medieval 1000-1450 (aka "Gothic") ,Renaissance 1450-1600, baroque 1600-1750, classical 1750-1820, romantic 1820-1900, modern 1900-

clavichord along with the hammered dulcimer, the clavichord is considered the forerunner of the piano, and is much like a piano in appearance. Instead of a hammer, the key pressed a metal edge against the string, thereby sounding and stopping the string at the same time. The sound was soft and the loudness hard to vary, and if you played forcefully enough, the pressure of the metal edge threw the tuning off. 2. The clavichord is a small early keyboard instrument with a hammer-action. The strings are struck by a tangent, a small oblong strip of metal, eliciting a soft sound. The limited dynamic range of the clavichord make it unsuitable for public performance, but it was historically much favoured by composers such as Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, second son of Johann Sebastian Bach and a leading keyboard-player in the middle of the 18th century.

clavier (also "klavier") any keyboard instrument. The meaning depended on the period of use - sometimes it meant harpsichord or clavichord, sometimes piano. It never seemed to mean an organ.

clawhammer a style of fingerpicking for the banjo and guitar. The name seems to derive from the use of the righthand thumb and first two fingers.

Clayton, Paul (1933-67) singer-guitarist-collector. After collecting songs in the eastern and southern US in the 50s, Paul became known as a performer in the Greenwich Village folk revival, and was an influence on Van Ronk, Dave. He was an expert on folklore (with 20 albums), and toured with Bob Dylan in 1964. See also borrowing.

Clearwater Project the Clearwater is a replica Hudson River sloop, built in 1965 through the efforts of Pete Seeger and Victor Schwartz. It sails the Hudson, stopping at various ports to provide seminars on the environment by its passengers and crew (including Tony Barrand, Gordon Bok, Don McLean, and many others). The goal is to raise awareness of the ecology of the Hudson while providing folk music concerts; PBS has filmed a documentary about the efforts. Several albums of the music have been recorded.

clef (from the French for "key") a symbol placed at the beginning of a staff to indicate the range of pitch. The most familiar is the treble clef, which looks like " & " and denotes that the second line of the staff (counting from the bottom line) is G above middle C (also called "G clef"). Wide-range or bass instruments may also use the bass clef. This is placed on the staff below the treble staff, and is also called the "F clef". Its symbol looks like " ): " (said to have been derived from the old script "F"). There are two other clefs, used for vocal and wide-range instrument works, but rarely seen in folk music. These are the alto and tenor clefs, and both are called "C clefs", although they are placed on different lines to indicate the C note. The symbol looks a bit like a "3".

clef. a sign that normally occurs at the beginning of each staff to refer a particular staff line to a specific pitch; e.g. a G clef, or treble clef, indicates middle G (G4) as the second line. A bass clef, or F clef, indicates F-below-middle-C (F3) as the fourth line. See also International Pitch Notation. 2. The five lines generally used in musical notation have no precise meaning without the addition at the left-hand side of a clef, a sign that specifies the note to be indicated by one of the lines, from which other notes may be gauged. The so-called treble clef, familiar to pianists and violinists, otherwise known as a G clef, is used to show that the second line from the bottom is G. The so-called bass clef, otherwise known as an F clef, shows that the second line from the top is the F below middle C. C clefs are used on any line to show the position of the note known as middle C. Most frequently found are the alto clef, a C clef on the middle line of the stave (the group of five lines) and the tenor clef, a C clef on the second line from the top. The alto clef is the principal clef used for the viola, the tenor of the string family, while the tenor clef is used for the upper register of instruments like the cello and the bassoon. In plainchant, with its four-line stave, there are C clefs and F clefs which may appear on any line.

clem (UK) starve.

Clements, Vassar (1928- ) superb fiddler player and studio multi-instrumentalist from South Carolina who played fiddle with Monroe, Bill and Scruggs, Earl; he first came to the public notice through his work on the album "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1972. He has recorded with over 70 famous performers, from Acuff, Roy to Linda Ronstadt. He also has a number of solo albums on the Rounder and Flying Fish labels.

Click Song a South African folk song popularised by singer Miriam Makeba, who owes her introduction to the general public to Belafonte, Harry. The "click" referred to is a sound in the language of the Xhosa people, a tribe of the Zulus, and done by snapping the tongue away from the roof of the mouth. It’s represented in English by "xh" or "!x", so the the tribal name, for instance, would be pronounced, more or less, <click"ossa". Perhaps the most famous appearance of the clicking sound in language is in the films "The Gods Must be Crazy" and its sequel "The Gods Must Be Crazy II" - most of the dialogue of the bushman (who was really the star) featured this charming sound. For another example of African folksong (under-represented in this lexicon - to be fixed), see also Guabi, Guabi, Wimoweh.

Clifton, Bill (1931- ) in the late 50s, Bill Clifton made a number of recordings of updated country and bluegrass songs, taking as his sources groups like the Carter Family. In 1963, he headed the country music section of the Newport Folk Festival. He has lived in England since the mid-60s, and is credited with widely influencing many of the folk performers created by the folk revival, demonstrating the place of country and old-timey songs and picking styles in folk music.

clinker a wrong note, a clam.

clogging step-dancing, very popular everywhere in the UK and North America. Generally done to fiddle tunes, and usually in groups of three or four or more, the steps are energetic and rhythmic, although less flamboyant than tap. Most folk festivals will feature a clogging team. The name is said to originate from the English custom of step-dancing in clogs (wooden-soled shoes). Clogging is divided into various styles: Appalachian, English, French-Canadian, and others. The Irish and Scottish step-dances (Highland Fling, etc.) are generally not considered clogging, since they’re much lighter in the steps and don’t produce the rhythmic clatter associated with clogging. There are further sub-categories, such as the shuffle, the flatfoot, freestyle, buckdancing, etc.

clogs shoes made with a leather upper and a wooden sole. They were popular with workers in past times, and probably resulted in the distinctive style and sound of clogging. Today’s reproductions often have leather soles and metal tap plates to provide the clattery sound.

Clootie (Scot.) Satan.

close harmony harmony notes within the space of an octave.

close position. voicing of a chord where there is less than an octave between the soprano and tenor voices in a four-part setting.

closure-property. (Forte) (set-theory, nonlinear) a property in which every member of a complex is a subset or a superset of every other member.