Belle qui tiens ma vie

I thought I’d write a quick little ditty about a bit of music with which I have been strangely obsessed ever since we sang it in the Burlington Choir a couple of months ago. It’s a piece by Thoinot Arbeau (1519-1595), real name Jehan Tabourot originally written as an instrumental dance. Apparently Arbeau was a master of dances and wrote the definitintive book on Renaissance dance, the Orchésographie from which much of modern knowledge about the period is derived. The pavane Belle qui tiens ma vie is I think one of the very few pieces in the Orchésographie with all four parts filled in by Arbeau himself, the others having only the top line. Here’s a facsimile of the relevant pages and here‘s a modern version.

Perhaps because all of the original parts are included, this seems to have sparked off a great number of people with their own versions. The one which strikes me as most like an actual dance is that of The Broadside Bandand excerpt of which I couldn’t find online, but which is being played in the background of this YouTube video. What follows are a load of versions which get progressively… well I’ll let you decide.

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