In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Compassionating, He who causes the Stars and Planets to dance in the Heavens to the notes of the Celestial Harmony, and who has assigned to each Sphere its own Just and Harmonious proportion so that their symphony forms a counterpoint to the terra firmus which serves as the cantus firmus, and serves as a guide to the inhabitants thereof. His name be praised! And may He send his blessings to His Lordship Lee of the Lowlands and Her Ladyship Anastasia Alexandrovna Andreeva, Baron and Baroness of Madrone, and to all their diverse subjects. And afterwords.
As Your Excellencies are well aware, Madrone is the finest of baronies which is abundantly blessed with both fine lands and more importantly a talented and productive populace: doughty fighters, skilled craftsmen, diligent workers, and high and noble personages whose feats and efforts are praised throughout the Kingdom and indeed the Known World, thereby bringing greater glory to Your Excellencies. Your Barony is without want or lack, save for one small matter to which this address of mine shall serve as a redress.
Among these people are many skilled dancers and musicians who are capable of dancing and playing not only the dances of the current fashion, but also the most excellent dances among those of our forefathers. However, the dancers have difficulty in dancing that most excellent of dances of the 15th Century known as the Basse Dance. This lack is not for want of skill on the part of dancers, nor is it a matter of lack of instructions left for us by our forefathers, for their instructions are both easily obtainable and reasonably clear. Rather, the sketchy nature of the music for these dances left for us by our forefathers causes the difficulty. And it is to find a remedy for this cause that I apply my skill in this treatise.
In almost all cases, the music for the basse dance consists solely of a cantus firmus (often taken from a popular chanson of the age). About that cantus firmus, the musicians would improvise a countertenor and discant according to both their fancy and the laws of just and proper harmony. This would provide the dancers with both a symphony to please their ears and the tempus to which they should direct the steps of the dance.
Alas, our forefathers did not leave for us complete arrangements of these dances (they lack the descant and countertenor parts); instead, arrangements were left to the ingenuity of the musicians. Alas also, our forefathers, did not leave for us exact instructions on how to perform these improvisations. However, these rules may be inferred from other rules, such as those of Counterpoint.
In order to remedy this lack, I have applied the rules of counterpoint to some of the cantus firmi left by our forefathers. By applying the laws of harmony as set forth by our forefathers, we can create arrangements which are both euphonious and sound like unto that which our forefathers would have produced. The result, as you shall see and hear, is both pleasing to the ear and allows Your Dancers to dance many dances which they were previously unable to dance solely due to lack of music. These dances shall spread from Madrone to the rest of the Known World and hence bring greater glory to Your Excellencies Names.
In this treatise, I set forth the rules I have used to make these reconstructions so that all may comprehend them. In this manner, those who are capable can learn the arts of improvising or composing new counterpoints to the Basse Dance tenors. For those who are incapable of that, I have appended some examples of my art, so that they can at least play an existing counterpoint from the given score. For those who are incapable of that, let them come to me and I shall teach them of what they lack. For Your Excellencies pleasure, I shall play one of the finest of my settings of these dances, so that You may understand by the evidence of Your Own Ears, the practice of my art.
Onward to Chapter 1: On the Nature of the Basse Dance.
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This file developed and maintained byRussell G. Almond