9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music


The Seventeenth-Century French Harpsichord Suite and Social Philosophy: A Reexamination of Suite Organization

Margot Martin

This paper addresses the current divergent theories surrounding harpsichord suite organization and offers a new explanation for the organization of the suite. It focuses especially on the published harpsichord collections of Chambonnières (1670), La Guerre (1687), d’Anglebert (1689), and Le Roux (1705), and examines the keyboard suite in light of the social and artistic practices of the period. It first discusses the seventeenth-century perception of music as a sister in the family of arts and examines the function of an artistic work (including music) within society. It considers the social ceremony of ballroom dance and examines the music as an artistic representation of dance. It also discusses commonly held concepts of expression through movement, using paintings of Charles Le Brun to illustrate these concepts and to delineate criteria that governed musical expression. Principles of artistic expression are further explored by investigating parallels between musical practices and conventions of literary portraits. This helps to more specifically define the music in its role as an artistic representation and to explain how it operated in that role. Finally, all of these various elements are joined together as a foundation for musical analysis, which gives us a culturally and historically informed reading of the music. Such analysis brings to light the governing factors behind the music and its arrangement in the suites, and shows how the music functioned as a representation of social order through its multiple layers of representation.

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Last updated on 22 March 2000 by Yo Tomita