Music and the French Enlightenment: Reconstruction of a Dialogue, 1750-1764


Around the middle of the eighteenth century the leading figures of the French Enlightenment engaged in a philosophical debate about the nature of music. This book traces the development of the ideas discussed, focusing on three different events that occurred roughly simultaneously: Rameau's formulation of the principle of the fundamental bass; the writing of the Encyclopedie, edited by Diderot and d'Alembert, with articles on music by Rousseau; and the "Querelle des Bouffons," over 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 music theory, considering music as both art and science. Their dialogue was one of extraordinary depth and richness and dealt with some of the most fundamental issues of the French Enlightenment. Verba reconstructs the link between music theory and criticism that has been lost over time, presenting intensive passages from the debate in English translation for the first time.

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Oxford
Publication year:
  • 1993


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