[SCA-Dance] Basse danse

christopher532941 c_elmes at hotmail.com
Wed Jan 21 07:25:23 EST 2009

(This is a re-posting of one that seemed to get lost back in 
December. Sorry for any duplication.)

> > Well, we don't. Trying to think back to when we started doing 
these, I
> > think we might have tried a few different reconstructions with 
> > tempi (including 2+2+2 and even 4/2)
> Is that what happened with the Eschewynge of Ydelnesse version of 
> Alenchon?  The music was so lovely I decided to learn the dance, 
> then realized it wasn't what I considered a bassedance ...

If I may reply for Cait:

Basse Alenchon was something of an experiment. One idea behind the 
Eschewynge CD was to approach the music from a medieval perspective - 
as a reaction against many recordings of 15th century dance music 
which seemed to use 16th century ideas of arrangement and 

We had found that the tune 'Quene note' (early 15th century) had been 
identified as a possible early bassedanse. This piece is quite 
clearly in a duple rhythm like 4/2. As Andrew Casson had already 
arranged the Alenchon tenor in 4/2 (and as you said, is a very fine 
piece of music) we decided to include it next to 'Quene note' on the 
CD. Retrospectively we also found that some early 15th century 
keyboard music which provides settings of identifiable bassedanse 
tenors is in 4/2. 

There is also some earlier suggestions of this in the 14th century in 
the istampittas. Most of the istampittas are not considered to be 
danceable, they just have a 'dance' form rather like Bach violin 
suites, but there are three dance pairs rather along the lines of 
bassadanza/saltarello or pavane/galliard (they are La Manfredina, 
Lamento di Tristano and Danca Amorosa). Each of these has a slow, 
bassedanse-like, tune followed by a double speed variation 
titled 'rotta'. The slow sections can be seen as 4/2 though of course 
there are no actual bar lines. Also curiously, most phrases are in 
units of three doubles. 

So there may be a progression from 4/2 in the late 14th/early 15th 
century, 6/4 in the middle/late 15th, and on to Arbeau bassedanse 
which seems to be twice as fast as the 16th century.

Chris Elmes
Gaita Medieval Music

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