Renaissance dance: 15th century Italian saltarello and quadernaria


This is material for a class on the saltarello and quadernaria for St. Vitus Dance Weekend 2009.

Handout (PDF)

Ferretra (modern composition to fit dance description) - Sheet music (PDF) - part 2 only - slower version - slower version of part 2 only

Voltati in Ca Rosina - slower version

Update 3/8/2009, 15/9/2009: Discussing this with a couple of cluey musicians at the St. Vitus Dance Weekend in Politarchopolis, it emerged that the saltarello rhythm seen in at the start of Tesara may actually be:

* - - * -** * - - * -** * - - * -** * - - * -**

and not

* - * * * - * - * * * - * - * * * - * - * * * -

as given in Smith's book.

My reconstruction of the saltarello step is readily adapted to this. However the link with quadernaria becomes less clear.

In "Joy and Jealousy" this rhythm is used in the music for Tesara. However in other places, such as in la Ingrata, the rhythm seen in Smith's book is used, for music with identical notation in the original manuscripts for music with very similar notation. This requires us to believe, for music corresponding to the same dance step, that the dot represents a punctus divisionis in the sequence semibreve-minim-dot-minim-semibreve and a punctus additionis in the nearly identical semibreve-minim-dot-minim-minim, in Paris, B.N., Ital. 972. The alternative would be to ascribe the difference to scribal error, the final semibreve is off-beat and perhaps feels small.

In Joy and Jealousy's version of sections III and IV of Tesara, the familiar semibreve-minim-dot-minim-semibreve is treated as a scribal error. If you examine other music, you will see that this pattern is far more common than semibreve-minim-dot-minim-minim. On balance I think it is more likely that the former pattern is the scribal error, and prefer to retain my original interpretation.