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Medieval Dance Music and Chansonnier du Roy


Medieval Dance Music
Dance music during the Medieval era was usually characterized by strong rhythms and dances which provided contrast with each other were usually grouped together
The lively Italian Salterello was also known as the “jumping dance”
Basse danse
This stately dance originated in the Burgundian courts
The stately Italian dance was often coupled with the Galliard
The lively French Galliard was often coupled with the Pavane
The Ronde was usually associated with the outdoors and was a lively romp performed in a circle or a line
The French Branle was also lively and energetic
The stately Estampie originated in France and was characterized by elaborate body movements
An essential skill for dance music musicians was improvisation. Music was usually not notated but rather performed as an improvised piece
Musicians improvised dance music and added embellishments as they saw fit
A common practise of improvising was to add a drone, sustained tones that mirrored the melody at an interval of a fifth above or below

Chansonnier du Roy

Chansonnier du Roy, translated means “Songbook of the King”, was an anonymous late thirteenth century French manuscript which contained trouvere and troubadour songs. The dances included in this collection are estampies, a stately dance which was characterized by elaborate body movements.

Royal Estampie no. 4

This piece of dance music was written in the late thirteenth century and is written with seven sections and two refrains. If the two refrains are labeled ‘x’ and ‘y’, the formal structure looks like: 1x1y, 2x2y, 3x3y, 4x4y, 5x5y, 6x6y, 7x7y. The tempo is a moderate, stately tempo with a triple meter. The melody is built on short assymetrical phrases and has a narrow range. The harmonies include an improvised drone moving in parallel fifths with the melody. The texture of the piece is monophonic. Instruments which could have been used to perform this piece include the vielle and shawm.

All information on this article is derived from: Joseph Machlis and Kristine Forney. The Enjoyment of Music, Eight Edition, Standard Version, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1999. Janet Lopinski, Joe Ringhofer, and Peteris Zarins. Exploring Music History, A Guided Approach, Mississauga, Ontario: Frederick Harris Music Co., Limited
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2 comments (show) ▼


tres interessant, merci


Just wondering, the drone is supposed to be one sustained tone isn’t it? So the drone isn’t moving in parallel fifths with the melody, that’s just harmony – correct?

Also, am I correct in saying that the heterophonic texture is a result of these improvised harmonies?

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