Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/622

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606
DANCE RHYTHM.
 

part very shy of the element of rhythm, as if it was not good enough company for their artistic purposes. Consequently the progress of serious art till the 16th century was confined to the development of good part-writing and good progressions of harmony. The result is a finely continuous mass of tone, and expressive effects of harmony, in the works of these old masters up to the early years of the 16th century, but a conspicuous absence of definiteness in both the rhythms and phrases; as may be observed in the 'Chansons mondaines' of Okeghem, Josquin de Prez, and Hobrecht, as well as in their sacred music. But while these composers were proceeding on their dignified way, others whose names are lost to fame were busy with dance tunes which were both sung and played, and may be studied in the 'Orchésographie' of Thoinot Arbeau, and Stafford Smith's 'Musica Antiqua,' the 'Berliner Liederbuch,' the Walther'sches Liederbuch,' and elsewhere. And quite suddenly, within the space of less than a generation, the rhythmic impulse of this choral dance music passed into serious music, and transformed the vague old-fashioned 'Chanson mondaine' into a lively rhythmic tune; and at the same time gave the development of the art in the direction of modern harmony a lift such as it never could have got by continuing in its old path. In fact, the first change of the Chanson mondaine into the typical madrigal seems to have been greatly helped by the progress in artistic merit of the forms of the dance tunes, such as were sung in parts by voices, and by the closely allied Frottole and Villanellas. As early as Arcadelt and Festa rhythmic definition of a dance kind is found in works which are universally recognised as madrigals; and as it is possible that composers did not keep steadily in view the particular class to which after ages would refer their works, they wrote things which they intended to be madrigals, but which were in reality pervaded by a dance impulse almost from beginning to end, inasmuch as the harmonies move often together, and form rhythmic groups. But, on the other hand, the most serious masters of the great period of madrigal art evidently resisted the influence of regular dance rhythms, and in the richest and maturest specimens of Marenzio, Palestrina, Vecchi, and our greatest English masters, it would be difficult to point to the distinct rhythmic grouping which implies a connection with dance motions. But nevertheless even these great masters owed something to dance influence. For it was the independence from artistic responsibility of the early dance writers which enabled them to find out the elementary principles of chord management, by modifying the conventional modes as their instincts led them; while their more serious and cautious brethren were being incessantly thwarted in their efforts by their respect for the traditions of these modes. And hence dance music reacted upon serious music in a secondary as well as direct way, since its composers led the way in finding out the method of balancing and grouping chords in the manner which in modern music is familiar in the inevitable treatment of Tonic and Dominant harmonies, and in the simpler branches of modulation of the modern kind. This secondary influence the great madrigal writers were not directly conscious of, however much they profited by it; and the growth and popularity of the independent forms of Frottola, Villanella, Balletto, and so forth, helped to keep their art form free from the more obvious features of dance music. When the madrigal art came to an end, it was not through its submitting openly to the seductive simplicity of dance rhythm, but by passing into part songs with a definite tune, such as were early typified in the best days by Dowland's lovely and finished works; or into the English glee; or through its being corrupted by the introduction of an alien dramatic element, as by Monteverde.

All such music, however, was deposed from the position it occupied prior to the year 1600 by the growth of new influences. Opera, Oratorio, and many other kinds of accompanied song, and, above all, instrumental music, began to occupy most of the attention of composers.

In the first beginnings of Opera and Oratorio the importance of dance rhythm is shown by negative as well as positive evidence. In the parts in which composers aimed at pure declamatory music the result, though often expressive, is hopelessly and inextricably indefinite in form. But in most cases they submitted either openly or covertly to dance rhythm in some part or other of their works. In Cavaliere's one oratorio the connection of the chorus 'Fate festa al Signore' with the 'Laudi spirituali' is as obvious as the connection of the said Laudi with popular dance songs. For in the Italian movement, fostered by Neri, as in the German movement in favour of the Chorale, to which Luther gave the impetus, the dance principle was only two generations off. Both Chorales, and Laudi Spirituali, and the similar rhythmic attempts of the early French Protestants were either adaptations of popular songs, or avowedly modelled on them; and, as has been already pointed out, the popular songs attained their definite contour through connection with the dance. But besides this implication, in Cavaliere's work distinct instructions are given for dancing, and the same is the case with Peri's opera 'Euridice,' which came out in the same year (1600). As a matter of fact, Peri seems to have been less susceptible to the fascination of clear dance rhythm than his fellow composers, but the instructions he gives are clear and positive. The last chorus is headed 'Ballo a 3,' 'Tutto il coro insieme cantano e ballano.' Similarly Gagliano's 'Dafne' (printed at Florence in 1608) ends with a 'Ballo.' Monteverde's 'Orfeo' (1609) contains a chorus headed 'Questo balletto fu cantato al suono di cinque Viole,' etc., and the whole ends with a 'Moresca' which is preceded by a chorus that is to the utmost degree rhythmic in a dance sense. To refer to the works of Lulli for exam-