Danseries a 4 Parties, Second Livre, a. Basse danse (no. 1), b. Branle gay: Que je chatoulle ta fossette
Pierre Attaingnant (1562-1626)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 3 Tracks 27-28
Pierre, our musical Gutenberg, was printing music books before the daughter of Anne Boleyn took up the lute. The impact that printing has on music at this time is impressive. Most significantly, music books best convey how to build and play instruments. After a long tradition of vocal music, a unified instrumental effort was the foundation of extending those achievements into the unsingable.
I do not think that it is incidental that our early instrumental music includes dances. I am sure there has always been dance music. Birds have to sing, after all. I am reminded, again, that there must have been a myriad of European music traditions that were not documented and vanished with the performers and dancers that enjoyed them. I imagine a group of isolated Scots with drums exploring poly rhythmic essays beyond the comprehension of even the distant, fateful Krell.
What I like about Mr. Attaingnant's publication is the use of meter. The attention of the audience is not intended to be focused on the music, of course. So the rhythmic language is of primary importance. It cannot afford to be too complex or too mundane. The asymmetrical groove of the basse danse goes well with the solid triplet meter of the branle gay.