Quatre branles

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The Quatre Branles is a suite of four dances done as one. It consists of the Double Branle, the Single Branle, the Gay Branle and the Burgundian Branle. Thoinot Arbeau tells us in Orchesography that these were the first four branles danced at a ball. However as they are all mindnumbingly easy dancers in the area of Stormhold have taken to dancing the four pieces as one dance, to music of the same name by Tielman Susato.

According to the rules of French pronunciation quatre is pronounced katr with a rolling r. In honour of the whimsical mispronunciations of French by the Elizabethans however, it is often pronounced as the English word quarter.

The Music

The music was published in Susato's 1551 book Danserye. The Double Branle and Single Branle were both common forms for instrumental music in 16th century France, much as the pavan and galliard were common forms for instrumental music in England. Mixing four branles together in one piece was however relatively rare.

There are two quirks to this piece of music which dancers should be aware of. Firstly, music to the Gay Branle usually consists of two phrases of six beats, however in Susato's music the third branle consists of three phrases of four beats. Secondly, as printed in Danserye the Double Branle is played and repeated immediately and the Single Branle is also repeated immediately. However the Gay Branle and Burgundian Branle are played are played together before repeating both. Some recordings (notably that of The Broadside Band) ignore this final repeat.