I’m referring to dance music that’s hundreds of years old (like you might see on Ye Olde European Bandstande). Many of these tunes come to us from sheet music collections that give the musicians quite a bit of leeway in how the songs are performed. Such is the case with “A L’Estampida: Medieval Dance Music“, performed by the Dufay Collective. Despite the title, these are pieces often performed in church, and as befits church music, the instrumental pieces are more courtly than raucous.
“Lo Splendore D’Italia” by The Whole Noyse is instrumental music from the late 15th century through the early 17th century. Mostly recorder music (with a few sackbuts and cornets for good measure), it follows the Renaissance principles of counterpoint, so you won’t be working up much of a sweat to these pieces.
Piffaro the Renaissance Band hails from Philadelphia, and their albums “Chansons et Danceries: French Renaissance Wind Music” and “Canzoni e Danze: Wind Music from Renaissance Italy” still focuses more on the 16th century, but the wider variety of instrumentation (hurdy gurdy, crumhorns, shawms, even bagpipes plus the usual sackbuts and recorders) makes for a more festive sound.
Here’s a clip from a recent Piffaro concert. Note the lack of a mosh pit or stage-diving.
By the time of the 17th century as portrayed on “English Country Dances” and “John Playford’s Popular Tunes” by Jeremy Barlow and the Broadside Band, dancers have loosened their whalebone corsets and are dancing up a proper storm. Many of the songs on these two albums may be familiar to you if you enjoy films set in the time of Dickens (“Packington’s Pound” and “Greensleeves” were in the 17th century’s version of the Top Ten.)