Tag Archives: Jean-Philippe Rameau

The Boydell composer compendium series

Rameau compendium

Boydell & Brewer launched The Boydell composer compendium series in 2014 with The Rameau compendium by Graham Sadler.

The series aims to present up-to-date reference works on major composers that can provide instant information and connect users with further reading. As leading authorities on the composers in question, the authors are encouraged both to present available information and, where appropriate, to introduce new facts and arguments and to illuminate the various discourses on the subject.

Each volume includes an exhaustive cross-referenced dictionary of relevant people, places, institutions, compositions, terminology, genres, and events. A comprehensive bibliography is also included, as are numerous musical examples and illustrations.

Below, John Eliot Gardiner conducts a concert of Rameau’s works.

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Rameau’s American dancers

Rameau by J.-J.Caffieri, 1760

The 1725 account in Mercure de France of two Native Americans dancing at a Paris theater provides a detailed link between the large corpus of earlier European descriptions of New World music and the composition of Rameau’s harpsichord piece Les sauvages.

The account and the composition constitute a significant episode in the prehistory of ethnomusicology. Rameau’s detailed characterization of the Indians’ performance in the piece develops initiatives by 17th-century French musicians, and his later operatic use of Les sauvages in Les Indes galantes mirrors the ambiguities of Europe’s response to the Americas in the 18th century.

This according to “Rameau’s American dancers” by Roger Savage (Early music XI/4 [October 1983] pp. 441–52).

Today is Rameau’s 330th birthday! Above, the 1760 bust of the composer by Jean-Jacques Caffieri (click to enlarge); below, his Rondeau des Indes Galantes, which is based on Les sauvages.

Related article: Ballet and sauvagerie

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Ballet and sauvagerie

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A semiotics of sex roles in French society was played out in 18th- and 19th-century ballet by projecting it onto imaginary Native American societies.

In the 18th century, sauvage culture became a canvas for the projection of utopian sentiment with subtle social texturing, allowing the expression of fantasies of less restrictive sexual roles; in the 19th century, sauvagerie became grotesque and increasingly unrefined, shifting the emphasis from cultural to racial difference and affirming the status quo.

This according to “Sauvages, sex roles, and semiotics: Representations of Native Americans in the French ballet, 1736–1837” by Joellen A. Meglen (Dance chronicle XXIII/2 [2000] pp. 87–132; XXIII/3 [2000] pp. 275–320).

Above and below, Rameau’s Les Indes galantes (1735).

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Filed under Baroque era, Curiosities, Dance