Decorum of the Minuet, Delirium of the Waltz

Decorum of the Minuet, Delirium of the Waltz

A Study of Dance-Music Relations in 3/4 Time
Eric J. McKee
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 11/23/2011
ISBN: 978-0-253-02804-4
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Much music was written for the two most important dances of the 18th and 19th centuries, the minuet and the waltz. In Decorum of the Minuet, Delirium of the Waltz, Eric McKee argues that to better understand the musical structures and expressive meanings of this dance music, one must be aware of the social contexts and bodily rhythms of the social dances upon which it is based. McKee approaches dance music as a component of a multimedia art form that involves the interaction of physical motion, music, architecture, and dress. Moreover, the activity of attending a ball involves a dynamic network of modalities—sight, sound, bodily awareness, touch, and smell, which can be experienced from the perspectives of a dancer, a spectator, or a musician. McKee considers dance music within a larger system of signifiers and points-of-view that opens new avenues of interpretation.

Author Bio

Eric McKee is Associate Professor of Music Theory at Penn State University. He is a contributor to The Age of Chopin (IUP, 2004), and his articles have appeared in such journals as Music Theory Spectrum, Music Analysis, In Theory Only, College Music Symposium, and Theory and Practice.


“The minuet and the waltz were defined by the dance music that made them possible. This work explores the link between the structures of the music and the social contexts and bodily rhythms of the social dances. ”

“McKee’s book. . . fulfils its aim: that of presenting dance-music relations in two out of three of the most popular ballroom dances in several centuries. To my knowledge, there is no other English publication on such intersection of topics – thus it deserves a place in the libraries of music and dance departments.”
 — Gediminas Karoblis, Dance Research

“Think back . . . to an enlightened age of rhythmic egalitarianism, when life was lived in the lightness, suppleness, and grace of triple meter as well as duple, and the two reigning dances were in 3/4. This book is a much-needed, restorative paean to that two-century era and its emblematic dances: the minuet and the waltz.”

“McKee’s overall orientation is laudable, since functional dance music has largely been ignored by music analysts, and stylized dance music has been treated as if it had minimal connection to the practice of dancing. . . . Despite the amount of close music analysis, McKee’s writing is accessible to a wide range of readers. . . . One hopes that McKee has plans for a future book to follow the mid-century delirium of the waltz to its twentieth-century demise.”
 — Nineteenth-Century Music Review

“I think this is an important book for musicians and dance academics alike, since McKee proposes that to understand the musical structures of the minuet and waltz, 'it is helpful to be aware of the bodily rhythms of the dance upon which they are based and the social contexts in which they were performed'. . . . McKee's holistic approach illuminates the total experiences of all the participants. . . . highly informative on the importance of dancing at every level of society, and its varying social functions, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. ”
 — Dance Europe

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Table of Contents

1. Influences of the Early Eighteenth-Century Ballroom Minuet on the Minuets from J. S. Bach’s French Suites, BWV 812–817
2. Mozart in the Ballroom: Minuet-Trio Contrast and the Aristocracy in Self-Portrait
3. The Musical Visions of Joseph Lanner and Johann Strauss Sr.
4. Dance and the Music of Chopin: Historical Background
5. The Musical Visions of Chopin
6. Chopin’s Approach to Waltz Form