It survived for posterity only due to it being a sung dance and thereby included in the personal project of Jehan Tabourot, 16th century priest, to write a book of the social dances he remembered from his youth, complete with their choreography and music. We begin with a video of the song, sung in English with renaissance lute. Click picture to play video — opens in new window. I have taught this dance in order to sing it for dancers, and doing so is very special experience. A dance-timing version of the melody is heard in another video further down the article.
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It survived for posterity only due to it being a sung dance and thereby included in the personal project of Jehan Tabourot, 16th century priest, to write a book of the social dances he remembered from his youth, complete with their choreography and music.
We begin with a video of the song, sung in English with renaissance lute. Click picture to play video — opens in new window. I have taught this dance in order to sing it for dancers, and doing so is very special experience. A dance-timing version of the melody is heard in another video further down the article. Thoinot Arbeau: all the right letters, not necessarily in the right order Jehan Tabourot — was born in Dijon, eastern France, into a distinguished family. After being ordained a Roman Catholic priest, from Jehan served the Cathedral of Saint Mammes in Langres for the rest of his life, becoming a canon in As with all pictures, click to enlarge in new window.
His certificate of publication is dated 22nd November , his book published in the next year. The author was born in and in the text he refers to himself being 69 years old, which suggests that at the time the certificate was granted the book was not yet complete. The name of the author on the cover was his, but presented anagrammatically: Jehan Tabourot became Thoinot Arbeau.
For any anagram enthusiasts, this works because at the time i also stood for j, thus Jehan or Iehan. This is not a credible story.
The introduction is a fantasy, an example of the renaissance literary trope of feigned humility. In all likelihood, Jehan des Preyz is another pseudonym for Jehan Tabourot. As well as being written in a flowing dialogue, there are flashes of humour. I have touched you and find that you are shapely. I would thus wish to dance closer to you, but you emit an unpleasant odour as of bad meat. And if you desire to marry you must realise that a mistress is won by the good temper and grace displayed while dancing … And there is more to it than this, for dancing is practised to reveal whether lovers are in good health and sound of limb, after which they are permitted to kiss their mistresses in order that they may touch and savour one another, thus to ascertain if they are shapely or emit an unpleasant odour as of bad meat.
Therefore from this standpoint, quite apart from the many other advantages to be derived from dancing, it becomes an essential in a well-ordered society. Jehan complains on several occasions that modern dancing has lost the orderliness it once had. I leave it to you to judge whether it is a becoming thing for a young girl to take long strides and separations of the legs, and whether in this volta both honour and health are not involved and at stake.
Keep your head and body erect and appear self-possessed. Spit and blow your nose sparingly, or if needs must, turn your head away and use a fair white handkerchief.
Converse affably in a low, modest voice, your hands at your sides, neither hanging limp nor moving nervously. In defence of dancing Just as England saw the rise of the Puritans from the late 16th century, who were against social dancing, so 16th century France had dance and the arts generally as part of the ideological battleground in their wars of religion.
Bacchus conquered the Indies by three kinds of dance. In the primitive church there was a custom, which has survived into our own time, of dancing and swaying while chanting the hymns of our faith, and it may still be seen in several places. Matthew Chap. XI and St. Luke Chap. VIII when he reproached the Pharisees for their obstinacy and ill will. Orpheus, in Greek mythology, was a poet and musician of such legendary power and skill that his sweet music could make mountains and trees move and could soothe wild beasts into placidity.
Above left: A Greek vase, BC, showing Orpheus playing the lyre, his chosen instrument in the original stories. Above centre: A Roman mosaic of the 2nd or 3rd century AD showing the typical scene of Orpheus taming wild animals with his music played on the lyre.
Perhaps today we may be surprised that a Catholic priest loved dancing so wholeheartedly. He was certainly not alone in the church. In the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, there was a French dance movement spearheaded by the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits, a Roman Catholic order of religious men. Since being able to dance was considered crucial for the social standing of any European gentleman, such schooling was good training for dancing in the royal court in the reign of dance-lover Louis XIV ruled — This is not to be confused with the modern use of the word, ballet.
There were no pirouettes, tutus or ballet shoes here: ballet in French is related to the Italian balletto, from the Latin ballo or ballare, meaning dance, without any of its later associations with pointe, arabesque and so on. The painting is attributed to Hieronymus Francken. On the left is the whole painting, on the right is a detail showing the four musicians, all lutenists, a man, a youth and two boys.
Capriol: I foresee, then, that posterity will remain ignorant of all these new dances you have named for the same reason that we have been deprived of the knowledge of those of our ancestors. Arbeau: One must assume so. Capriol: Do not allow this to happen, Monsieur Arbeau, as it is within your power to prevent it. Set these things down in writing to enable me to learn this art. Tabourot, writing as Arbeau, regularly refers to the vintage of the particular dance he is describing.
Occasionally this is fanciful. The dance called the alman — variously spelt in other sources, almand, almond, almain, almayne, almaigne, allemande — is French for Germany. The artist is uncredited and may be Tabourot himself. For example, the basse danse originated in 14th century Italy; types of branle were known from the early 16th century; and the coranto is first evidenced in These dances and others described in the book — buffens, canary, galliard, la volta, morris dance, pavan, tourdion — are not singular dances but dance forms, with new variations in music and choreography regularly created.
In his old age, Tabourot compares the present unfavourably with the past, seeing a decline in the standard of dancing compared to his youth. We had Master Claudin, who played exquisitely upon several instruments and made us eager to practice.
But for some time now I have met with nothing but sorrow and it has made me old and dull. In Act 3, Scene 1, Moth mentions the dance, Armado thinks he means a fight, and Moth responds with word-play: Moth: Master, will you win your love with a French brawl?
Adriano de Armado: How meanest thou? Brawling in French? It is also a significant source of branle melodies. The order of these four varieties of branle is determined by the three different groups taking part in a dance: the elderly who dance the double branle and single branle sedately, the young married folk who dance the gay branle and the youngest of all, like yourself, who numbly trip the branles of Burgundy.
And every dancer acquits himself to the best of his ability, each according to his years and his degree of skill. Click to play video — opens in new window. Another special aspect of the treatise is the dance tabulation. The precise meaning of choreographical descriptions could be somewhat ambiguous in previous dance literature. He created his own system, combining music and choreography in a crystal-clear way, with each movement of the dancer connected to a note of the music.
There are medieval and renaissance visual portrayals of percussion, about which we know only what can be gleaned from the iconography: Tabourot gives us the first detailed description of percussion technique and the particular way it accompanied dance in renaissance France. There is nothing else like it. He even gives us the instruments that would typically be used. Nowadays there is no workman so humble that he does not wish to have hautbois and sackbuts at his wedding.
The sackbut is the successor to the slide trumpet, the early trombone. I learned one on the lute which I enjoyed seeing danced by my companions as I knew how to play and sing it. The author gives no words for the melody. The sentence about Antoinette being sung is ambiguous: it could mean simply that he remembers it as a song and separately as a dance, or he could mean that Antoinette was played and sung to be danced to.
Which leads us to the sung dance in the book for which Tabourot does give the words: Belle qui tiens ma vie. Belle qui tiens ma vie — a sung pavan Not only is Belle qui the only dance in the book with words, it is the only piece with a full arrangement of four voices and drum rhythm — every other piece in the book is a single monophonic line. I have played it for weddings myself, and can report from experience that Belle qui works beautifully to accompany a bride processing down the aisle.
Having heard Arbeau go to great lengths to explain drum beats and explain why the pipe and tabor is used at social dances, Capriol asks Arbeau about pavan instrumentation.
Capriol: Must the pipe and tabor necessarily be used for pavans and basse dances? Arbeau: Not unless one wishes it. One can play them on violins, spinets, transverse flutes, and flutes [pipes] with nine holes, hautbois and all sorts of instruments.
They can even be sung. In that latter volume are nine sets of diferencias or variations, composed by Antonio on popular melodies of the day, two of which use the melody also used for Belle qui: Differencias sobre la Pavana Italiana Variations on the Italian Pavan and Diferencias sobre el canto de La Dama le Demanda Variations on the song The Lady Demands. It was common practice in the medieval, renaissance and baroque periods for a song melody to carry different sets of unrelated words, as appears to be the case here; to be adapted for different musical contexts a dance melody becoming a tune for a song, a song arranged for dancing , as seems to be the case here; and for music to travel internationally, as is certainly the case here.
It is also not possible to say with certainty whether the melody originated in Italy, Spain or France, only that it travelled. Since no two languages express ideas in quite the same way, versification into another language is always a delicate balance between being true to the original and finding words in the second language that not only adequately express and reflect the original but also retain the metre. Since words in the two languages are different, the original rhyming words are left behind and the rhyme scheme has to be recreated.
I tried to be true to the original text, without any attempt to fit the English lyrics to the notes, although in some instances I had to adjust my text to the idiomatic intent rather than slavish literalism. Extreme examples of this appear [in brackets] where a literal translation of the French words simply made no sense in English and I had to paraphrase.
Thoinot Arbeau's "Orchésographie"
Thoinot Arbeau's Orchesographie