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The Music of Arbeau's Orchésographie

Dr. Yvonne Kendall
June 20, 2013

280 pp.

9 illustrations

ISBN: 978-1576471968

7X10 Hardback $78.00 $71.00


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In this innovative study, G. Yvonne Kendall situates Orchésographie, the most widely-known dance manual of Renaissance Europe, among contemporary sources from France, Italy, England and Spain. This manual, penned under the pseudonym Thoinot Arbeau contains 47 choreographies. Kendall places Orchésographie in the cultural context of sixteenth-century France by examining Arbeau’s life and training, as well as the lives of many influential men and women who supported dance during the religious struggles of the Reformation.

"Published in Langres in 1588 and republished again in 1589, Thoinot Arbeau's Orchesographie represents dance practices in France from the 1550s to the 1580s. It is the only French source for this period and also provides the foundation of information for dance practices in other northern European countries. Following a device used by earlier dance writers, Orchesographie was based on a discussion between a teacher and his eager student about social dance, style, steps, and etiquette. Sprinkled throughout the manual is historical background and a discussion of theory. The treatise provides helpful information on bows (révérences) and other ballroom etiquette including the advice that the student Capriol should keep his 'head and body erect and appear self-possessed...to spit and blow [his] nose sparingly.' Arbeau's simple, but effective notation consisted of printing the music vertically on the page with the name of each step beside the note on which it should occur.

"Arbeau's manual provided information on sixteenth-century marching and drumming techniques and has been especially important for its discussion on Renaissance drum rhythms and meter. His manual is the only source for several dances, including a men's sword dance known as "Les Bouffons," as well as the morisque and the volte; it also supplied early descriptions of the gavotte, allemande, and courante." - Library of Congress, Western Social Dance.

Dr. Yvonne Kendall:

Noted musicologist specializing in historical performance. Having earned her doctorate at Stanford University, Dr. Kendall has been granted two summer fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and has published in numerous internationally respected journals. Among these are Oxford University Press journals Early Music and Music & Letters. She has also been published in Houston Grand Opera’s Opera Cues, Encyclopedia of the Renaissance, andRenaissance Quarterly. In addition to publications, Dr. Kendall has directed several masterclasses and workshops in historical dance and music performance, hosted at such venues as Eastman School of Music, Rice University, and Indiana University. Dr. Kendall’s international presentations include lectures and/or performances in Australia, Canada, England, Italy, Mexico, and Spain. In 2008, she received a commendation from the Texas Commission on the Arts for her concert lectures in Mexico. Her study on dance music concordances in various historical music notations from the 16th-century is forthcoming in a book to be published by Pendragon Press. Dr Kendall is newly appointed book review editor for Discoveries, a publication of the South-Central Renaissance Conference. She is program annotator for Mercury Baroque and has been interviewed on Houston Public Radio several times.

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