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Saturday morning quotes 3.35: Connections

January 11, 2014

We hear from our friends, fans and casual readers that they are sometimes surprised by the way we describe the distillation of disparate bits of information old and new, and how we show that they can connect to form a logical theme.  Of course, by not indulging much in current culture and technology, we simply have our eyes and ears open to things there for all to see and hear and we’re happy to share our observations.

Today we make a few unexpected connections which we stumbled upon while researching music for our upcoming recording of French airs de cour from the late 16th- through the middle of the 17th century.  We begin with a thread that is not French at all, but rather timely social observations in the form of a fairly well-known quote by Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), from Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil (1651)

“In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently, not culture of the earth, no navigation, nor the use of commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

In Leviathan, Hobbes was describing conditions that were the result of civil war and what he saw as the lack of a social contract: The fabric of society today seems to be similarly tattered, but (Tra La) that’s not exclusively the point.  The connection is that the frontispiece of Leviathan was engraved by Abraham Bosse (c. 1604–1676), who was also responsible for engravings found in La rhétorique des dieux (1652), a lavish compilation of  lute music by Denis Gaultier (c.1597–1672) that was created for a wealthy patron, Anne de Chambré.

French airs de cour were evidently enormously popular, with 43 collections printed in France between 1608–1643.  Such airs were also popular in England, with a collection Chansons et airs de court published in London by Charles Tessier in 1597, a selection found in Robert Dowland’s A Musical Banquet. Furnished with Varietie of Delicious Ayres, Collected Out of the Best Authors in English, French, Spanish and Italian (1610), and also a collection by Edward Filmer, French Court-airs, with their Ditties Englished (1629).

Among the later French collections printed in Paris by Robert Ballard, we find the title, ANTHOYNE BOESSET,/ Surintendant de la Musique de la Chambre/ du Roy, & de la Reyne./ SEIZIESME LIVRE (1643). One of the more popular airs is “N’esperez plus, mes yeux”, found on folio 12v-13.  Antoine Boësset (1586–1643) was an associate of  Marin Mersenne (1588–1648), and Mersenne used “N’esperez plus, mes yeux” as an example of how singers would ornament a fairly simple melody by printing diminutions by the famous singer Henry Le Bailly (c.1580–1637) on the  second couplet of the air.   Mersenne’s massive text,  Harmonie universelle (1636), also included a good deal on mathematical and scientific subjects, connecting Mersenne with the likes of contemporaries René Descartes, Galileo Galilei, and Constantijn Huygens.

A new CD, a new edition, and a new video about how you can help:

You will be able to read—and hear—more of our connections on our upcoming recording, Doulce Mémoire, which will be the centerpiece of our three recordings planned for 2014.  We will be releasing the recording with a very special edition of the scores of the music for those of you inclined to sing and play the lute. More information here.  Meanwhile, we make available a pdf of “N’esperez plus, mes yeux” as an example.

The blog format allows us the opportunity to connect with our friends, colleagues and audiences, sharing useful information that illuminates the importance of historical music as logical framework for describing the intersection of sound, science, and spiritual meaning.  We like to make these connections in a spirit of sharing with our readers.

At times it feels as though we are flailing about the icy seas, observing the sinking of the Titanic and drowning while relaying amusing anecdotes to those fortunate enough to have secured a seat in a lifeboat.  We’ll continue as long as we can but if you enjoy what you read here, if you care about what we offer in terms of moving interpretations of historical music and meaningful characterizations of its context, and if you want us to continue, Support our tropes.

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