Lansing D. McLoskey 
Haute Dance
Haute Dance  (2012)   Duration: 14'
for Baroque violin, tenor gamba, and theorbo
Commissioned by Chatham Baroque
Winner of the Chatham Baroque International Composition Competition

I.    Beanchaes Brawl                    c.1:00
II.     Haut Gavotte                     c.1:30
III.    Double Branle                     c.1:15
IV.    Krrranto (coranto)                c.2:30
V.    The Queen’s Pleasure                 c.1:15
    aka “The Betty Hop” (lavolta)
VI.    Basse Danse: piangere infinito              c.6:15
    (or: "Dancing with Tears in my Eyes")    

view score

The history of the Dance suite dates to the mid-16th century, the first known example being Suyttes de bransles by the French composer Estienne du Tertre, published in 1557. The Dance suite evolved and increased in popularity over the next 150 years, culminating in the highly formalized and stylized Baroque dance suites of Telemann (who claimed to have written over 200), Händel, and J.S. Bach. 

In composing this suite I was particularly interested in the category of Renaissance dances known as the haute danse.  These were lively, energetic dances – indeed, often quite athletic - with leaps, spins, and lifts.  These contrasted with the basse danse: slow, stately dances in which the dancers' feet did not leave the ground. There were numerous forms of each, varying in style, choreography, and also regionally.  I set five haute danse as follows:

I.    Beanchaes Brawl: In John Marston's The Malcontent (1604), one of the characters describes the steps of Beanchaes brawl (“Bianca's branle”): “t'is but two singles on the left, two on the right, three doubles forward, a trauerse of six round: do this twice, three singles side, galliard tricke of twentie, curranto pace; a figure of eight, three singles broken downe, come vp, meete two doubles, fall backe, and then honour.”   
Simple…got it?

II.    Haut gavotte: A ground bass repeats twenty times; the catch, however, is that each repetition subtracts one note from the beginning until but one note remains.

III.    Double branle: Although the name originally refers to the form, in my double branle the “double” indicates a duo for the violin and gamba.

IV.    Krrranto: The Coranto (courante) was a quick-paced dance in triple-meter. Courante literally means running, and in the later Renaissance it was danced with fast running and jumping steps.  This coranto starts slowly, but ends up running full-bore into a wall.

V.    The Queen’s Pleasure aka “The Betty Hop”: The lavolta was the “dirty dancing” of the Renaissance. The music was characterized by dotted-rhythms, and the dance itself was deemed quite lewd and lascivious, if not downright immoral and dangerous. The man embraces the woman, places his thigh between her buttocks, one hand on her back and the other alternately near her crotch and bust, and she leaps into the air, the flying skirts revealing glimpses of undergarments and leg. It was denounced as shamelessly obscene and suggestive.  Johann Praetorius described it as “a new galliard…a foreign dance in which they seize each other in lewd places…a whirling dance full of scandalous, beastly gestures and immodest movements.  [The volta] is responsible for the misfortune that innumerable murders and miscarriages are brought about by it.”  Another critic suggested that the volta “should really be looked into by a well-ordered police force and most strictly forbidden.”   Nevertheless, it was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, who danced it often with the Earl of Leicester (to whom she was not married).

Scandalous? Move over, Lady Gaga!

The suite concludes with one slow basse danse: piangere infinito (“endless tears”), based on the la Folia progression.

Haute Dance was commissioned by the Chatham Baroque New Works Program, with generous funding provided by The Fine Foundation, and The UPMC Health Plan.  


"It is with great enthusiasm the we would like to introduce you to Haute Dance, written for our period instrument ensemble by composer Lansing McLoskey.  We feel it would be a shame to keep this piece to ourselves, and that it deserves more performances.

We found the writing to be accessible and idiomatic for our instruments, retaining an awareness of early instruments and dance forms, yet in a thoroughly modern compositional voice.  There is a nice balance of old and new elements, as well as a mix of serious, lyrical, and playful rhythmic movements that make the piece very appealing for both players and audiences.

[Lansing] understands our instruments and their history, and captures their idioms, capabilities, and limitations.  If you have the opportunity to consider this piece for a future performance, we urge you to take advantage."
Chatham Baroque


"Lansing McLoskey’s Specific Gravity: 2.72 [is] a magnificent work, especially the second movement, "November Graveyard." This movement was graceful with lush harmonies and an overall quietude of reflection. His use of metallic percussion instruments in this movement created subtle palettes for the winds and strings to float upon..."
— Lee Harman, KC Metropolis review

"Smart, compelling and fascinating music that gives strong hints of a punk-band past.…a chaotic collision of exuberant populist style with a bluesy edge and infectious punch. … Sixth Species offers a bracing sampler from an engaging, greatly gifted composer I hope to hear more from."
— Gramophone Magazine, Annual Awards Issue,

"Lansing McLoskey composes music that is keenly heard and deeply felt. His music reveals a remarkable sensitivity…resulting in works of emotional intensity. Avoiding any allegiance to “isms” he has developed a unique musical voice which is clear and distinctive."
– The American Academy of Arts and Letters, on the occasion of his receiving the 2011 Goddard Lieberson Fellowship.

"Lansing McLoskey’s is a distinctive voice in present day American music. This CD offers a fascinating cross-section of his vocal and instrumental chamber music and bears witness to McLoskey’s sharp ear for instrumental sonorities."
– Carlos María Solare. The Journal of the American Viola Society

“McLoskey’s musical interests have evolved from being a guitarist and songwriter for punk rock bands to a composer of some of the most unique and engaging contemporary music written today.
– Benjamin Faris. The Saxophone Symposium

“…one of the most exceptional and inspiring concerts I have ever attended…. [McLoskey's work] inspired me to be more critical when thinking about musical sonority, form and thematic development in the future.”
– Elizabeth Perten, Boston Musical Intelligencer

"But in fact the heart of the concert, for this listener, was an unassuming piece [Rosetta stone] by Lansing D. McLoskey - the "D" standing perhaps for dense, demanding, daring. ... The opening was an explosively metric movement of terrifying complexity and jagged irregularity. Balancing it was a second movement of rounded, mantralike piano clusters interspersed with lyrical lines in the treble instruments. McLoskey... created a magical sonority throughout this mysterious but thought-provoking piece."
–Paul Horsley, The Kansas City Star
"...THIS IS REAL MUSIC, with rhythm, melody, harmony, and form, which the listener can perceive, but definitely is from the twentieth century."
 –Thomas Hall, Journal of the American Viola Society

"A major talent ... and a deep thinker with a great ear. His Requiem is distinctive, fascinating, and compelling."
 –American Composers Orchestra press release

"The other standout on the program, McLoskey's Requiem...[is] a beautiful piece, one that conveys both ethereal solemnity and wrathful reckoning."
–Michael Manning, The Boston Globe

"[McLoskey's music]...resonates with the listener and doesn't attempt to alienate the audience. ... powerful and emotive music."
Jean-Yves Duperron, Classical Music Sential