In vocal music, contrafactum (or contrafact, pl. contrafacta) is "the substitution of one text for another without substantial change to the music". The earliest known examples of this procedure (sometimes referred to as ''adaptation'') date back to the 9th century used in connection with Gregorian chant.
Translations meant for singing are not usually intentional "substitution". Types of contrafacta that are wholesale substitution of a different text include the following:
Poems set to music
An existing tune already possessing secular or sacred words is given a new poem, which often happens in hymns, and sometimes, more than one new set of words is created over time. Examples include:
The hymn tune "Dix" has been given several sets of words, among them As with Gladness Men of Old and For the Beauty of the Earth.
Monteverdi's "Quel augellin che canta" (4th madrigal book), was transformed into "Qui laudes tuas cantat", using the sacred poem texts by Aquilino Coppini.
In Japan, the Scots song "Auld Lang Syne" (lit. "Long Time Ago", "Old Times") has a new set of words in the song "Hotaru no hikari" (lit. "The Light of the firefly"), and is used at graduation ceremonies. Another Western song, also reworked with different lyrics around the same period (late 19th century) and used at graduation ceremonies, sometimes confused with "Hotaru", is "Aogeba tōtoshi".
A lyricist might re-cast his/her own song (or someone else's song) with new lyrics. Examples include:
Mark Russell also created political parody with popular music.
Writers of contrafacta and parody tried to emulate an earlier song's poetic metre, rhyme scheme, and musical metre. They went further by also establishing a close connection to the model's words and ideas and adapting them to a new purpose, whether humorous or serious.
The Australian music quiz show, Spicks and Specks has a game called Substitute, in which players have to identify a popular-music song from someone singing completely unrelated words, such as from a book about knitting, to the tune of that song.
Other notable songs with significantly-different lyrics in different languages include the following:
The melody of the French song Ah! vous dirai-je, maman (English: Oh! Shall I tell you, Mama) is used in English for "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", the "Alphabet Song", and "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep", while all of the following use the melody: the German Christmas carol "Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann [de]" (Santa Claus is Coming Tomorrow) with words by Hoffmann von Fallersleben, the Hungarian Christmas carol "Hull a pelyhes fehér hó [hu]" (Fluffy white snow is falling), the Dutch "Altijd is Kortjakje ziek [nl]" (Kortjakje is Always Sick), the Spanish "Campanita del lugar [es]" (Little Town Bell), the Greek "Φεγγαράκι μου λαμπρό (Fengaráki mou lampró)" (My Bright Moon), and the Turkish "Daha Dün Annemizin" (Yesterday Our Mother).
"Comme d'habitude", music by Claude François and Jacques Revaux, original French lyrics by Claude François and Gilles Thibaut, rewritten as "My Way" with English lyrics by Paul Anka. Before Anka acquired the English-language rights to the song, David Bowie had written a different set of lyrics to the same tune, titled "Even a Fool Learns to Love".
The "Wilhelmus" (or "het Wilhelmus"), parts of which form the national anthem of the kingdom of the Netherlands, suffers from the same fate. It is based on "The tune of Chartres", specified by the Beggars Songbook of 1576–77 as that of a French song about the siege of the city of Chartres by the Prince of Condé and the Huguenots in the beginning of 1568. This song, with the title "Autre chanson de la ville de Chartres assiegee par le Prince de Condé, sur un chant nouveau", formed the base of "het Wilhelmus".
Songs which have been re-written by the same writer with different lyrics include:
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The above examples involve either music that is in the public domain or lyrics that are modified by the original lyricist, but an obvious consideration in producing a contrafactum of someone else's music in modern times is the copyright of the original music or lyrics upon which the contrafactum is based.