Music and the French Enlightenment : Rameau and the by Cynthia Verba

By Cynthia Verba

Round the heart of the eighteenth century, the prime figures of the French Enlightenment engaged in a philosophical debate in regards to the nature of track. The central participants-Rousseau, Diderot, and d'Alembert-were responding to the perspectives of the composer-theorist Jean-Philippe Rameau, who used to be either a player and more and more a subject matter of controversy.

The dialogue headquartered upon 3 varied occasions happening approximately concurrently. the 1st was once Rameau's formula of the primary of the elemental bass, which defined the constitution of chords and their development. the second one used to be the writing of the Encyclopédie, edited via Diderot and d'Alembert, with articles on song by way of Rousseau. The 3rd was once the "Querelle des Bouffons," over the relative benefits of Italian comedian opera and French tragic opera. The philosophes, within the common demeanour of Enlightenment thinkers, have been capable of circulate freely from the vast problems with philosophy and feedback, to the extra technical questions of song concept, contemplating tune as either artwork and technology. Their discussion used to be one in all outstanding intensity and richness and handled one of the most basic problems with the French Enlightenment.

In the newly revised version of Music and the French Enlightenment, Cynthia Verba updates this attention-grabbing tale with the prolific scholarship that has emerged because the ebook was once first released. Stressing the significance of seeing the philosophes' writings in context of a dynamic discussion, Verba rigorously reconstructs the chain of arguments and rebuttals throughout which Rousseau, D'Alembert, and Diderot formulated their very own evolving positions. a bit of key passages in translation provides numerous texts in English for the 1st time, recapturing the tenor and tone of the discussion handy. In a brand new epilogue, Verba discusses vital traits in new scholarship, tracing how students proceed to grapple with some of the comparable primary oppositions and competing principles that have been debated by means of the philosophes within the French Enlightenment.

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Extra info for Music and the French Enlightenment : Rameau and the philosophes in dialogue

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For a detailed discussion of Rameau’s efforts to explain the sub-​ dominant, see Thomas Christensen, Rameau and Musical Thought in the Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 179–​85 and 193–​99. 58 Rameau, Observations, vii; CTW, iii, 261. 56 57 Rameau and Rousseau Launch the Debate 27 from Rameau’s earliest treatises, where reason and abstract mathematical calculations have a more central role. As we shall see in the next chapter, the shift was part of a more general tendency occurring at the time toward recognizing an important role for instinct or sensibility in the artistic experience.

Rousseau, Lettre, 86; Launay, i, 758. 71 Rousseau, Lettre, 86–​87; Launay, i, 758–​59. 72 Rameau, Observations, 96–​97; CTW, iii, 314–​15. 73 Rameau, Observations, 107; CTW, iii, 320. Rameau’s notion of implied tones—​required in some way through the musical context—​appears throughout his theoretical treatises. His use of it 69 70 Music and the French Enlightenment 32 Achevons [tonic on G becomes G7 as dominant of C] [I shall finish this] Je frémis! ] Vengeons-​nous [tonic on D becomes to D7 as dominant of G] [I shall avenge myself] Je soupire!

29 Rousseau, Lettre sur la musique française, 4; Launay, i, 676. Later, in the Essai sur l’origine des langues and elsewhere, Rousseau strongly qualified his view of harmony as natural by making a distinction between harmony as raw material and harmony as it is used in music. In the latter case, it becomes a product of society—​unnatural and varying from culture to culture. Indeed, as we shall discuss in the next chapter, Rousseau eventually viewed the very need for harmony as a sign of a decadent society, far removed from the ideal natural state when language and music were unified and when the sole need for language was for expression of the passions.

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