Sarabande music – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Dance Music Glossary

I. What is Sarabande music?

Sarabande music is a slow, stately dance in triple meter that originated in Spain in the 16th century. It is characterized by its slow tempo and emphasis on the second beat of each measure. Sarabande music is often associated with the Baroque period, particularly in the works of composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel. The dance itself is believed to have Moorish origins and was originally considered scandalous due to its suggestive movements.

II. History of Sarabande music

The Sarabande dance was introduced to Europe by Spanish colonists in the 16th century. It quickly gained popularity in courts across the continent and became a staple of the Baroque dance suite. The Sarabande was often performed as the third movement in a suite, following the Allemande and Courante.

During the Baroque period, composers such as Bach, Handel, and Jean-Baptiste Lully incorporated the Sarabande into their compositions, giving rise to a distinct style of music that is still appreciated today. The Sarabande eventually fell out of favor as a dance but continued to be used as a musical form in the Classical and Romantic periods.

III. Characteristics of Sarabande music

Sarabande music is characterized by its slow tempo, typically played at a walking pace. It is written in triple meter, with a strong emphasis on the second beat of each measure. The music is often melancholic and introspective, with a sense of gravity and solemnity.

The Sarabande is typically composed in binary form, with two sections that are repeated. The first section is often in a minor key, while the second section may modulate to a major key. The music is marked by its expressive melodies and rich harmonies, creating a sense of depth and emotion.

IV. Instruments used in Sarabande music

Sarabande music is typically performed by a small ensemble of instruments, such as the harpsichord, violin, cello, and flute. The harpsichord is often used as the main accompanying instrument, providing a rhythmic and harmonic foundation for the other instruments. The violin and cello play the melodic lines, while the flute adds color and texture to the music.

In larger ensembles, the Sarabande may be performed by a chamber orchestra, with additional instruments such as the oboe, bassoon, and trumpet. The use of these instruments adds depth and richness to the music, enhancing its emotional impact.

V. Influence of Sarabande music on dance

While the Sarabande dance itself has largely fallen out of favor, its influence can still be seen in modern dance forms. The slow, stately movements of the Sarabande have inspired choreographers to create contemporary works that capture the essence of the dance.

The music of the Sarabande has also been used in ballet and modern dance performances, with choreographers incorporating the music into their routines to evoke a sense of elegance and grace. The emotional depth of Sarabande music lends itself well to storytelling through movement, making it a popular choice for dance performances.

VI. Notable composers of Sarabande music

Several notable composers have written Sarabande music, including Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, and Jean-Baptiste Lully. Bach’s Sarabandes are known for their intricate counterpoint and emotional depth, while Handel’s Sarabandes are characterized by their lyrical melodies and rich harmonies. Lully, a French composer, incorporated elements of the Sarabande into his operas and ballets, helping to popularize the dance across Europe.

Other composers who have written Sarabande music include Henry Purcell, Marin Marais, and Arcangelo Corelli. Each composer brought their own unique style and interpretation to the Sarabande, creating a rich and diverse body of music that continues to be appreciated by audiences today.