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The minuet is traditionally viewed as the archetypal aristocratic dance, and the expressive opposite of the German dance or waltz. In topic theory, the minuet topic is understood to derive its noble associations from its proper context as a dance of the aristocracy. Yet in Viennese ball culture of the late-eighteenth century the minuet was danced by all classes, and it no longer functioned as the ceremonial opening dance as it had in balls at the court of Louis XIV. Nevertheless, the minuet continued to be characterised as aristocratic in dance treatises and on the stage even though all classes danced it in the ballroom. This chapter argues that dancing the minuet in the Viennese ballroom involved enacting a concept of aristocratic behaviour that derived from realms other than dance, including theatre and masquerade
Joseph Fort ponders a specific case of late eighteenth-century musical embodiment, one that has its origins in social and popular dance: a minuet by Joseph Haydn (Minuet in D major, Hob. IX/11, no. 1), emblematic not of contemporary concert-hall music, but of the music performed in front of a living – and physically mobile – audience at the charity ball held at the Hofburg Redoutensäle in Vienna, 25 November 1792. Reconstructing both the music and the dancing, Fort offers a revealing account of the Vienna dance scene, as well as the minuet’s position within it. More than this, though, he presents a close reading of the interrelations between music and dance from a specifically somatic perspective – one that is deeply intuitive, subjective and sensorial. Realizing his innovative approach alongside similar scholarly attempts at ‘live’ musical embodiment (particularly the work of Elisabeth Le Guin), Fort offers an analysis of the movement that reveals insights into not only the musical score, but also the intrinsically musical and gestural experience of dancing to it.
Two case studies, one broad and one more specific, feature in this chapter. The pastoral is more than a musical topic; it is an encompassing orientation that intersects with the taste for reduction that I considered in Chapter 3 and those elements of affective sociability mentioned in Chapter 4. Indeed, the galant style altogether could be said to have aspired to the condition of the pastoral. As well as continuing the traditional idyllic pastoral representations, our style also introduces a more vigorous brand of folk imagery. The tempo di menuetto finale, a neglected movement type, can be understood as a countergeneric construct, increasingly written in pointed contrast to the fast final movement of instrumental works. It helps us to unlock some of the neglected aspects of the style altogether by modelling an intimate sensibility, full of feeling but disciplined by a minuet gait that promotes continuity of motion. With its undemonstrative depth, it provides some clue as to what has been missing or misunderstood in the reception of musical sociability.
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