Gigue music – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Dance Music Glossary

I. What is a Gigue?

A gigue is a lively and upbeat dance form that originated in the Baroque period of music. It is typically written in a compound meter, such as 6/8 or 9/8, and is known for its fast tempo and intricate rhythmic patterns. The gigue is often the final movement in a suite of dances, such as a Baroque dance suite, and is characterized by its energetic and lively nature.

II. History of Gigue Music

The gigue originated in the late 16th century in England as a lively dance in duple meter. It quickly spread to France and Germany, where it became a popular dance form in the Baroque period. The gigue was often included as the final movement in a suite of dances, such as a Baroque dance suite, which typically included a prelude, allemande, courante, and sarabande.

During the Baroque period, the gigue evolved into a more complex and elaborate dance form, with composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel writing intricate and virtuosic gigues for solo instruments and ensembles. The gigue remained a popular dance form throughout the Baroque period and into the Classical period, where it continued to be used as a lively and energetic dance movement in instrumental music.

III. Characteristics of Gigue Music

The gigue is characterized by its fast tempo, lively rhythm, and intricate rhythmic patterns. It is typically written in a compound meter, such as 6/8 or 9/8, which gives it a distinctive and energetic feel. The gigue often features syncopated rhythms, dotted rhythms, and rapid scale passages, which add to its lively and playful nature.

Gigue music is often written in binary form, with two contrasting sections that are repeated. The first section typically features a lively and rhythmic theme, while the second section provides a contrast with a more lyrical and melodic theme. The gigue is known for its virtuosic and challenging nature, with performers often required to navigate complex rhythmic patterns and rapid passages with precision and agility.

IV. Instruments Used in Gigue Music

The gigue is typically performed by a variety of instruments, including strings, woodwinds, and brass. In the Baroque period, the gigue was often performed by a small ensemble, such as a string quartet or chamber orchestra, with each instrument playing a distinct role in the overall texture of the music.

String instruments, such as the violin, viola, cello, and double bass, are commonly used in gigue music, providing the rhythmic drive and melodic content of the dance. Woodwind instruments, such as the flute, oboe, and bassoon, are also frequently used in gigue music, adding color and texture to the overall sound.

In addition to traditional orchestral instruments, the gigue is also performed on keyboard instruments, such as the harpsichord and organ, which provide a rich and resonant sound that complements the lively and energetic nature of the dance.

V. Famous Gigue Composers

Several famous composers have written gigues throughout history, including Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, and Jean-Philippe Rameau. Bach, in particular, was known for his intricate and virtuosic gigues, which are featured in many of his solo instrumental works, such as the Partitas for solo violin and the English Suites for harpsichord.

Handel also wrote many gigues in his operas and orchestral works, showcasing his skill at writing lively and energetic dance music. Rameau, a French composer, incorporated gigues into his operas and ballets, adding a touch of elegance and sophistication to the dance form.

Other famous composers who have written gigues include Henry Purcell, Arcangelo Corelli, and Antonio Vivaldi, each of whom contributed to the development and popularity of the gigue as a dance form in the Baroque period.

VI. Gigue in Modern Music

While the gigue originated in the Baroque period, its influence can still be heard in modern music today. Many contemporary composers and musicians have incorporated elements of the gigue into their compositions, adding a touch of tradition and elegance to their work.

In addition, the gigue continues to be performed and enjoyed by musicians and audiences around the world, with its lively and energetic nature captivating listeners of all ages. Whether performed on traditional orchestral instruments or modern electronic instruments, the gigue remains a popular and enduring dance form that continues to inspire and delight audiences with its infectious rhythm and playful spirit.