Music History is Thrilling!

Renaissance Dance Music and Tielman Susato


Musica ficta
“False” or “feigned” tones which were not notated in the music but were utilized by musicians to avoid harsh intervals or dissonance. The intervals were not based on equal temperament yet, so this was a common practise in instrumental music
Bas, or indoor, instruments were soft and meant for occasions when softer music was required. Instruments were not yet grouped into the families that we know them as today. Two groups divided them into loud or soft

  • Recorder … An instrument which is still around today with a whistle like mouth piece. The modern flute often plays the recorder line in older instrumental musicc.
  • Lute … The lute is an early stringed instrument which was plucked. Some strings were used for melody while others were plucked as accompaniment. It had a rounded body.
  • Rebec … It is a Medieval bow-stringed instrument which is pear shaped.
  • Vielle … It is an early ancestor of the violin.
The other category of instruments during the Medieval and Renaissance days were the haut instruments, suitable for occasions such as tournaments and processions where bold, brash tones were required to be heard above the noise

  • Shawm … It is an ancestor of the oboe and has an abrasive sound.
  • Cornetto … It is like a cow horn but is made of wood.
  • Crumhorn … It is also known as the crooked horn and is shaped like the letter J, its double reeds are capped which makes for a less obtrusive sound than the shawm.
  • Sackbut … The sackbut is an ancestor of the modern trombone.
  • Nakers … Small drums which were often played in pairs, like kettle drums.
  • Tabor … A large, cylindrical drum.
Stringed instruments were also used on occasions where softer toned music was preferred
  • Viols … Viols were ancestors of the violin as well.
  • Viola da gamba … It is an instrument which is fretted like a guitar and held between the legs like a cello.
Consorts of instruments
Ensembles of instruments were known as consorts. These groups could be broken, not containing all the instruments within that grouping, or whole, containing all instruments within that grouping

Tielman Susato (ca 1515-1567)

This composer, instrumentalist, and publisher produced the publication “Danserye” which was a collection of dances including branles, estampies, rondes, pavanes, and galliards. He declared on the front page of the collection that these dances were fit to be played on all instruments. This provided more versatility in the performance of the dances.

Ronde I and Ronde II

Ronde I This upbeat dance tune is in 4/4 meter and its formal structure is binary A-B with each section repeated. As the instrumentation declared on the publication is ambiguous, the performance of the piece probably varied with each presentation.
Ronde II This is a slower piece, providing contrast with the Ronde which precedes it. The meter is 4/4 but the tempo has slowed down to a stately pace. The instrumentation probably varied according to the occasion at which it was performed. At the conclusion of Ronde II, Ronde I may be heard, forming a Ternary structure: A-B-A.

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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