Music and the French Enlightenment: Rameau and the Philosophes in Dialogue (2nd Revised edition)

ISBN : 9780199381029

Cynthia Verba
216 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Dec 2016
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Around the middle of the eighteenth century, the leading figures of the French Enlightenment engaged in a philosophical debate about the nature of music. The principal participants-Rousseau, Diderot, and d'Alembert-were responding to the views of the composer-theorist Jean-Philippe Rameau, who was both a participant and increasingly a subject of controversy. The discussion centered upon three different events occurring roughly simultaneously. The first was Rameau's formulation of the principle of the fundamental bass, which explained the structure of chords and their progression. The second was the writing of the Encyclopedie, edited by Diderot and d'Alembert, with articles on music by Rousseau. The third was the "Querelle des Bouffons," over the relative merits of Italian comic opera and French tragic opera. The philosophes, in the typical manner of Enlightenment thinkers, were able to move freely from the broad issues of philosophy and criticism, to the more technical questions of mu


List of Abbreviations
1. Introduction
2. Rameau and Rousseau Launch the Debate
3. Music as Expressive Art: Rameau versus Rousseau on Expressive Means and Content
4. Music as Science: The Contribution of d'Alembert
5. Music as Art and Science: Changing Conceptualizations by Diderot, 1748-1760
6. Music as Art and Science: Changing Conceptualizations by Diderot, 1761-1771
Key Passages in Translation
Chapter 2:
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, from Letter sur la musique francaise
Jean-Philippe Rameau, from Observations sur notre instinct pour la musique
Chapter 3:
Jean-Philippe Rameau, from Erreurs sur la musique dans l'Encyclopedie
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, from Dictionnaire de musique, Opera
Chapter 4:
Jean le Rond d'Alembert, from Elemens de musique theorique et pratique, Discours preliminaire
Chapter 5:
Denis Diderot, from Entretiens sur Le Fils naturel, Troisieme entretien
Denis Diderot, from Lecons de clavecin et principes d'harmonie, par M. Bemetzrieder
Select Bibliography

About the author: 

Cynthia Verba has long devoted her scholarship to the rich musical debates of the French Enlightenment, with many of the issues revolving around the composer-theorist Jean-Philippe Rameau, as both subject and participant in the debates. Her most recent book, Dramatic Expression in Rameau's Tragedie en Musique (CUP, 2013) shifts the emphasis from the Enlightenment debates about music to the music itself, focusing on Rameau's own tragedies.

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