Tuesday, January 7, 8510

Claude Gervaise (c. 1510-1560) - Danceries

Claude Gervaise (c. 1510-1560)

Quart livre de danceries (1550)

Galliard [I]

Galliard [II]

Pavanne: "Le Bon Voloir"

Claude Gervaise (fl. c. 1540 – 1560) was a French composer, editor and arranger of the Renaissance, who is mainly remembered both for his association with renowned printer Pierre Attaingnant, as well as for his instrumental music.

Little research has yet been done into his life, and details are only known of the period in which he was active in Paris as an assistant to Attaingnant. He first appears around 1540, mentioned as an editor on the title pages for several of Attaingnant's books of instrumental dances. After Attaingnant died in late 1551 or 1552, Gervaise continued to assist Attaingnant's widow, Marie Lescallopier Attaingnant, in carrying on their publishing business. Where Gervaise went after the last publication under the Attaingnant name in 1558 is not known.

Gervaise's extant output consists of chansons, mostly for three or four voices, and instrumental music, mostly dances. He appears to have written no sacred music at all, an unusual omission for a composer of the time. In addition to being a composer, he appears to have been an innovator in notation of instrumental music: in an instruction manual for the viol (1548, now lost), he is known to have produced the first viol tablature in France.

His chansons are freely composed, and mostly are settings of long poems (for example huitans). He published a collection of twenty chansons for four voices in 1541. The remaining chansons, for three voices, are arrangements of his previous pieces for four; this collection came out in 1550. Stylistically, all are typical of French chanson composition of the 1540s: polyphonic but concise.

His instrumental music is the most famous portion of his output. Most of his music is in four parts, and is intended for dancing. The principal forms employed are the pavane, galliarde, and branle; and the varieties of the branle are the courant, gay and simple. One of his pavanes, the Pavane passemaize, incorporates the famous, indeed ubiquitous, passamezzo antico bass line.

The melodies are simple in his instrumental music, and the texture is almost always homophonic, making the music ideal for dancing.


The passamezzo antico, a favorite ground bass or chord progression during the Italian Renaissance and for all of Europe in the 1500's, is consists of two phrases as follows:

i|VII|i|V|| III|VII|i-V|i||

Which is as follows in A minor:

Am|G|Am|E|| Am|G|Am-E|Am||

Examples include "Greensleeves."

The progression is a variation of the double tonic, and its major mode variation is the passamezzo moderno.

The passamezzo antico has not been forgotten in popular music culture; if the composers of two examples in Carrie Underwood's debut album "Some Hearts" were aware of this. "Before he Cheats" (a big US hit in 2006) and "Starts with Goodbye" both follow this ancient harmonic ground. Even another big hit - "Happy Together" (the Turtles - 1967) has a familiar ring about it.


The galliard (gaillarde, in French) was a form of Renaissance dance and music popular all over Europe in the 16th century. It is mentioned in dance manuals from England, France, Spain, Germany, and Italy, among others.

As a dance, the galliard is improvised, with dancers combining patterns of steps which occupy one or more measures of music. In one measure, a galliard typically has 5 steps; in French such a basic step is called a cinq pas and in Italy, "cinque passi". This is sometimes written in English sources as sinkapace. These steps are: right, left, right, left, cadence.

The galliard is an athletic dance, characterized by leaps, jumps, hops, and other similar figures. The main feature that defines a galliard step is that the last two beats consist of a large jump, landing with one leg ahead of the other. This jump is called a cadence, and the final landing is called the posture. The sources generally describe movement patterns starting on the left foot, then repeating it starting with the right foot. A galliard pattern may also last twice as long, or more, which would involve 11 steps, or 17 steps, and so forth.

The galliard was a favorite dance of Queen Elizabeth I of England, and although it is quite a vigorous dance, in 1589 when the Queen was in her mid fifties, John Stanhope of the Privy Chamber reported, "the Queen is so well as I assure you, six or seven galliards in a morning, besides music and singing, is her ordinary exercise."

In addition to being an entire dance, galliard steps are used within many other forms of dance. For example, 16th century Italian dances in Fabritio Caroso's (1581) and Negri's (1602) dance manuals often have a galliard section.

One special step used during a galliard is lavolta, a step which involves an intimate, close hold between a couple, with the woman being lifted into the air and the couple turning about 270 degrees, within one 6-beat measure. La Volta was considered quite a scandalous dance and some dancing masters questioned whether it ought to be danced at all.

Another special step used during a galliard is the tassle kick (Salti del Fiocco). These steps are found in Cesare Negri's manual (Negri 1602), and involve a galliard step ending with a 180 degree or 360 degree spin, during which the dancer kicks out to kick a tassle suspended between knee and waist height.

Musical compositions in the galliard form appear to have been written and performed long after the dance fell out of popular use. In musical compositions, the galliard often filled the role of an after dance written in 6, which followed and mimicked another piece (sometimes a pavane) written in 4. The distinctive 6 beats to the phrase can still be heard today in songs such as "God Save the Queen."


The pavane, pavanne, pavan, paven, pavin, pavian, pavine, or pavyn (It. pavana, padovana; Ger. Paduana) is a slow processional dance common in Europe during the 16th century (Renaissance).

The origin of this term is not known. Possibilities include the word being from Pava, a dialect form of Padua (in Italian, both pavana and padoano are adjectives meaning "of Padua") (Brown 2001); a descendant of the Sanskrit word meaning wind[citation needed]; or from the Spanish pavón meaning peacock, though the dance was "almost certainly of Italian origin" (Brown 2001).

The decorous sweep of the pavane suited the new more sober Spanish-influenced courtly manners of 16th century Italy. It appears in dance manuals in England, France, and Italy. The musical pavane survived hundreds of years after the dance itself was abandoned, especially in the form of the tombeau. At Louis XIV's court the pavane was superseded by the courante.


Slow duple metre (Double Time 2/4)

Generally follows the form of A,A1, B,B1, C,C1.

It generally uses counterpoint or homophonic accompaniment.

Often accompanied by a tabor, according to Arbeau 1967, 59–64) in a rhythmic pattern of minim-crotchet-crotchet (1/2-1/4-1/4) or similar, and this was generally followed with little variation by the melody[citation needed]; there were rarely minims in the centre of the bar, for example.

This dance was generally paired with the Galliard

In Thoinot Arbeau's French dance manual, it is generally a dance for many couples in procession, with the dancers sometimes throwing in ornamentation (divisions) of the steps. In the English Measures manuscripts, the pavane is one of several similar dances classed as measures; danced by a line of couples, it is simple and choreographed.

In Italian sources, the pavane is often a fairly complicated dance for one couple, with galliard and other sections.

The step used in the pavane survives to the modern day in the hesitation step sometimes used in weddings.

More recent works titled "pavane" often have a deliberately archaic mood. Examples include:

Pavane (1887) by Gabriel Fauré.

Pavane for a Dead Princess (1899) by Maurice Ravel

"Pavane: She's So Fine" (1994) from John's Book of Alleged Dances by John Coolidge Adams

"Pavanne: Once More He Stept" (2005) from Pied Piper Suite by Mark Alburger

[8517 Zarlino / 8510 Gervaise]