1.1. JUSTIFICATION OF THE RESEARCH
The Courante Françoise is the dance/form most frequently found in harpsichord sources during the second half of the seventeenth century. Why this large number of Courantes? This was my first thought about the topic; there must be an explanation about why in a Suite there is always a set of Courantes and why the complete number of Courantes in the corpus of the harpsichord composers is enormous. After this question about the harpsichord repertoire the next issues started soon in my research: why is there not enough historical information about the Courante as a dance? If the Courante was the most fashionable dance in France during the seventeenth century, and the dance preferred by Louis XIV, why can we only find limited information about it? What about the origin of this dance? Is the Courante an evolution from a previous dance or is it a new completely French creation? After all these questions I decided that this research should be focused on this dance during the first important generation of harpsichord composers in France, basically in the corpus of works by Chambonnières, Louis Couperin and d’Anglebert, who created a new harpsichord style and who are quite close temporary to the time of splendour of the Courante.
In our field of work, specially as early music performers, we need to have a profound knowledge about all the dances of the Suite. During the past years, I often have seen problems with the performances of Courantes in interpretations by students but also by professional musicians. The complex rhythmical ambiguity of this dance could be one of the most important problems for a performance.
I discovered the historical dance a few years ago, and this fact changed totally my way of understanding and performing the music. After my personal experience studying and performing historical dances, I consider that the knowledge about the origins and a minimum of execution of the dances of the Suite are as important as the counterpoint is a part of the essentials to understand and deliver a better interpretation and performance by the (early) musicians.
For all these reasons and for my personal interest in the French seventeenth century music and dance I have decided to start this research, thinking that this investigation could be a good tool to develop our skills and performances, always focusing on historical sources and on my personal experiences.
1.2. CURRENT STATUS OF RESEARCH
There are some interesting researches about this topic, but almost none of them are trying to make a synthesis between the music and the dance elements.
I have to highlight one important article called, “A Dance for Kings: The 17th-Century French Courante. Its Character, Step-Patterns, Metric and Proportional Foundations” written by Wendy Hilton, in which the author explains the Courante as a dance, but adding some musical elements. In my opinion this is the paper more close to my research, because she is trying to have a global vision of the dance as I am trying to do. One of the principal differences between Hilton’s article and my paper is the starting point. She writes as a historical dancer while I am defending my thesis starting from the world of the music, being focused, basically, in the music for harpsichord and how we can use the dance as a tool for music performances.
There are some other research related to this topic and about Performance Practice, like the thesis written by Bruce Gustafson “French Harpsichord Music of the 17th Century: A Thematic Catalogue of the Sources with Commentary”, the books “A Performer's Guide to Seventeenth-Century Music” by J. T. Kite-Powell, “Harpsichord and Lute Music in Seventeenth-Century France” by D. Ledbetter, “Dance and the Music of J. S. Bach” by M. Little and N. Jenne, “Early French Keyboard Music” by H. Ferguson, and the articles found in the Oxford Music Online Dictionary and other digital sources, the prefaces to sheet music of the composers mentioned in this paper, among others.
The different national styles and the development in different ways make the Courantes a really complex mix of dances, characters and forms.
Usually, the early music players are not absolutely in close contact with the world of the historical dance and I think that the relationship between these two worlds is very helpful for us as performers, specially in this form with its characteristic rhythmical ambiguity. These two different disciplines were much more related during the Baroque period, than in our times, and the relations between each other were more fluent and riches than today. For this reason, we also need to be aware of these relations and the role that both played.
Investigating musical and dance historical sources I will try to find some solutions about the challenge of performing Courantes in a historically informed practice way.
The historical analysis, the relations between music and dance and the approach to the way of interpretation of the Courante Françoise form during the second half of the seventeenth century in France will be the basic core of this research.
- To enlighten the characteristics and to search for the essentials of the Courante for a better understanding of this dance.
- To analyze historical sources on this topic.
- Besides the theory and practice in baroque dance, the palpable phenomenon between music and movement.
- To create a practical way to guide when playing a Courante Françoise on harpsichord.
- A compilation of representative choreographies of Courantes and/or dances related to it.
1.4. STRUCTURE OF THE RESEARCH
This research is organized in the following chapters:
- Introduction: in this part we can develop the frame in which this investigation has been done, explaining the justification of this research, the current status of the studies about this topic, the objectives, the structure and the sources used for the investigation.
- Explanation of the musical form Courante, showing the different types, the origin and influences, both in music and in dance.
- Study of the Courante Françoise in the second half of the seventeenth century, focusing on the corpus of works by the most influential composers for harpsichord from this time, Chambonnières, Louis Couperin and d’Anglebert.
- Performance practice and how can we use historical dance to improve our performances of Courantes.
- Conclusions obtained after the investigation.
The primary sources used for the elaboration of this research are varied, from dance treatises to the Encyclopedia and from manuscripts with choreographies to prefaces of sheet music. I tried to extract from all these sources the interesting elements related to this topic and to look for the historical and theoretical basis necessary to defend our thesis. It is important to highlight the big amount of publications from the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that we could use for the preparation of this investigation. The secondary sources used for this research are encyclopedias, books, articles related to this field of work and the help from professors and professionals in Early Music.
The resources that I have arranged for the completion of the research process are mainly bibliographic materials from the “Koninklijke Bibliotheek van Nederland”, from the “Nederlands Muziek Instituut”, from the library of the “Koninklijk Conservatorium” (Den Haag), from the library of the “Oviedo University” and from the library of the “Conservatorio Superior de Música del Principado de Asturias” (Oviedo). I also found a lot of information on Internet, principally from sources like “JSTOR”, “Oxford Music Online”, “IMSLP”, “Library of Congress” (USA) and “Gallica” (Bibliothèque Nationale de France).
Finally, I think that has been decisive for making this research my personal and professional experience, and the help of professors and researchers.
TABLE OF CONTENTS