Beverly Jerold


After discussing the role of technology in achieving modern performance standards, this article examines sources that have been cited in support of extremely rapid tempos for the time frame 1630-1800. It summarizes recent findings about the French time devices in which a new source ‒ the Paris dancing master Raoul Auger Feuillet’s reasonable pendulum tempo numbers for dance forms ‒ provides the most accurate information to date for tempo around 1700. Continuing then with other sources cited for rapid tempos, the present article discusses the conflicting statements in Marin Mersenne’s Harmonie universelle and his inaccurate pendulum measurements. It considers the tempo implications of the various time signatures, as supplied, for example, by Jean Rousseau and Jacques Hotteterre, together with Saint-Lambert’s idiomatic use of “une fois plus vite” to indicate the signatures’ tempo relationships. The latter’s “walking man” analogy was not a guide for tempo, but a means to convey beat equality; i.e., sound rhythm. Johann Joachim Quantz’s pulsebeat of 80, unworkable in the tempo sense applied today, was intended to teach fast-to-slow gradations of tempo to musicians who lacked any form of time-measuring device. In response, Daniel Gottlob Türk and Johann George Tromlitz cited the many variables that affect tempo. Without the modern technology that makes extreme tempos possible, tempo in earlier centuries had to have been commensurate with the prevailing conditions.