In music, the sarabande (It., sarabanda) is a dance in triple metre. The second and third beats of each measure are often tied, giving the dance a distinctive rhythm of quarter and half notes in alternation. The half notes are said to have corresponded with dragging steps in the dance.

The sarabande is first mentioned in Central America: in 1539, a dance called a zarabanda is mentioned in a poem written in Panama by Fernando Guzmán Mexía. Apparently the dance became popular in the Spanish colonies before moving back across the Atlantic to Spain. While it was banned in Spain in 1583 for its obscenity, it was frequently cited in literature of the period (for instance in works by Cervantes and Lope de Vega).

Later, it became a traditional movement of the suite during the baroque period, usually coming directly after the Courante. The baroque sarabande is commonly a slow triple rather than the much faster Spanish original, consistent with the courtly European interpretations of many Latin dances. This slower, less spirited interpretation of the dance form was codified in the writings of various 18th century musicologists; Johann Gottfried Walther wrote in his Musicalisches Lexicon (Leipzig, 1723) that the sarabande is "a grave,...somewhat short melody," and Johann Mattheson likewise wrote in Der Vollkommene Capellmeister (Hamburg, 1739) that the sarabande "expresses no passion other than reverence" .

The sarabande form was revived in the 20th Century by composers such as Debussy, Satie and, in a different style, Vaughan Williams (in Job) and Benjamin Britten (in the Simple Symphony).

In 1976 ex-Deep Purple organist Jon Lord based his album Sarabande entirely on the concept of a baroque dance suite. Performed by the Philharmonia Hungarica and a selection of rock musicians (including Andy Summers on guitar, who would later join The Police), the album mixes classical and rock influences.

Perhaps the most famous sarabande is the anonymous La folie espagnole whose melody appears in pieces by dozens of composers from the time of Monteverdi and Corelli through the present day.

Haendel's Sarabande

Stanley Kubrick and Brian De Palma prominently featured a sarabande by George Frideric Handel in the soundtracks to their films Barry Lyndon and Redacted respectively. In direct reference to Barry Lyndon, Michael Winterbottom included this sarabande in A Cock and Bull Story in a new arrangement by Michael Nyman.

It also has made an appearance on the 2008 HBO Series John Adams, about the life of the second president of the United States.

The Levi's campaign "Freedom to Move" used a different arrangement of the sarabanade to acommpany it's titular jeans' surreal commercial.

Other Sarabandes

The sarabande inspired the title of Ingmar Bergman's last film Saraband (2003). Each of Bach's cello suites contains a sarabande, and the film uses the sarabande from his fifth suite, which Bergman had also used in Cries and Whispers (1971). The sarabande from the second suite serves as the primary theme in "Through a Glass Darkly" (1961).


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