pennsicdance: need some music

Genevieve de Montmorency rendance at cox.net
Thu Sep 15 10:54:10 PDT 2005


I have come to the SCA as a professional early musician/musicologist  
who has been reconstructing music & dance of the 16th and 17th 
centuries for 20+ years. I have had the privilege of working with the 
best in my field for many years, including arguably the two best 
baroque dancers in the world. Before the first rehearsal with the 
orchestra, the three of us meet to determine the exact speed for each 
dance, for each dance type has a range a tempi that suit the steps and 
the character of the music and the choreography of the dance determines 
the exact speed which in theatrical dance is critically important. Thus 
my starting assumption based on my years of experience is that it is as 
historically accurate to have a range of tempi for the piva as for any 
other historical dance.

The only recording I have of Amoroso  [Alte Danze] always leaves the 
dancers out of breath and not at all feeling or looking amorous. My 
metronome says that the beat on that recording is 100, whereas I like 
Amoroso around 84, still sprightly but graceful and more amorous. The 
piva steps can still be lively at that slower tempo.

Now for some evidence from original sources to sustain my assumption 
and my intuition about this piece: Da Piacenza states that the piva is 
'presteça' in relation to the bassadanza  (line 219).  He says that you 
put two of these pive in one of bassadanza which would put it at a 
metronome marking of about 100 per piva. He goes on to say that you can 
also dance 2 piva in a quadernaria, which is a bit fast and is 'used in 
festivals when the irons are hot from the wax of the god Bacchus, 
ending the dancing." (line 324)  Finally he talks about doing 2 pive to 
one saltarello: "they will be very fast. They will not have their 
[mathematically proportional 2:1] arrangement but it is beautiful to 
know how to do it." (line 349)  When he summarizes in Chapter 16 the 
four movements of the piva, he does so in order of increasing speed, 
and the bassadanza = 2 piva is the second one mentioned. "The first 
movement has its arrangement in its essence" is all he says, but the 
inference is that the normal piva is slower than that which is twice as 
fast as the bassadanza (c 100). As in all original sources from the 
Renaissance, important points must sometimes be gleaned between the 
lines, such as the normal piva being slower which is why he feels the 
need to go into so much detail about how it can also be faster, because 
that is not the norm.

Thus a beat of around 84 for Amoroso is certainly supported by this 
section of this source. There may well be conflicting source material 
but I don't have time to chase it down today and will leave it to 
someone else to do so.

My closing point is that, after studying the sources thoroughly and 
knowing the range of tempi for any given dance step, musicians and 
dancers must but then follow their intuition, as Maug has said, drawing 
cues from the music itself (and the title as well) as to character of 
each piece. In the case of Amoroso, both as a professional early 
musician/musicologist and now a SCA dancer, I believe the music of 
Amoroso calls for the slower pive.

[Source = Smith translations]

Genevieve de Montmorency


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