[SCA-Dance] "Drive the Cold Winter Away"

White,John john.white at drexel.edu
Wed Feb 18 10:25:14 EST 2015

> From: Tim McDaniel
> On Tue, 17 Feb 2015, Tim McDaniel <tmcd at panix.com> wrote:
> > (Dayfdd says "the rest of the men in a line begin a figure that they
> > have four measures to complete", but he doesn't bother to mention how
> > long a "measure" is or give beat counts for anything here -- if it's 4
> > beats per measure, our timings if not our repetition counts
> > agree.)
> Before I get flamed for ignorance:
> I just checked the Terp booklet and almost all the English Country dances are
> listed as "== in 4 ==".
> But I'm not a musician -- I took a couple of years of music in middle school
> decades ago, and the reproduction of Playford doesn't look entirely like the
> modern notation I learned, so I'm not at all at home with music.
> Danielis de Lindocollino
> --
My understanding of the ECD genre as a whole, at least up until 1651 or thereabouts,
is that every step-figure (double, single, side, arm, set, turn, etc) takes either four beats
(one measure/bar), two beats (half a measure/bar), or some multiple of a full four beat
Measure/bar (while siding is usually one measure/4 beats to go in, and one measure/4 beats
to return to place, arming is usually described as 'walk in a circle for two measures/8 beats',
although if the music is sufficiently evocative, you will see dancers make note of the end of
the first measure with a little dip or stomp or something that indicates that it is two measures
of four beats each).

This, I believe, is a fairly universal understanding, though the rule eventually changes as new
steps and measure counts came into vogue (Hole in the Wall is supposed to be done with
minuet steps - you cannot count 1-2-3-4 if you are doing it right, which the SCA does not do).

(Note that I do understand that much of the music is transcribed so that each measure of music
is two beats, which means that two measures makes one "dance" measure of four beats.  I also
know, empirically, that it doesn't matter, because you never end up with half-measures so you
can count 1-2-3-4 all the way through without losing the beat structure or the dance structure.
Though if you do, you may be doing it wrong.)

Being that I have an understanding of music (many years of piano lessons, some flute, some
English Horn, and five years of trombone in junior and senior high school), some of these things
are second nature to me - beats/rhythm especially.  It is one of those "never thought about it"
things when putting together dance instruction sheets, like not describing a double (step, step,
step, close), etc.  The idea that "everyone knows" is never correct, even though it influenced
the dance manuals/manuscripts wherein we find ECDs (Playford, Lovelace/Church, Sloane) to
the point that only Playford, and then only accidentally, actually describes that siding and arming
changes sides when done in a verse!

Anyway - yes, my ECD dance instruction sheets are written with the implied idea that a measure or
bar is 4 beats.  Perhaps next time I re-do the entire thing, I'll either put together a preface page like
Lovelace/Church did, with these assumptions spelled out, or just note on every dance what the
measure structure is that I am referring to.  (Note also that I believe (because my memory is just
that bad) that the numbers next to the steps are always full-4-beat measures for ECD, unless
there is a reason to get down to the individual step counts (which there seldom is)).

                  \\Dafydd C

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