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Panat Times

Volume 1, redone Dec. 2014


Volume 1


Orest's Pages

Patricia's Musings



Musical Rhetoric

Transcribed Sources


The broader context of the Traité d'accompagnement

What can we deduce about the author?

The anonymous author of the Traité d'accompagnement grounds his treatise on the principles of tonal harmony that musician-theorists such as Charpentier, Loulié. and Brossard had been deducing/discovering/discussing/debating in the 1680s and 1690s. Throughout the treatise there are allusions to Italian composers, a trend that was praised by Raguenet in his Parallèle des Italiens et des François (1702) and decried by Lecerf de La Viéville in his Comparaison de la musique italienne et de la musique françoise (1704-1706).

What else can we deduce about the author of the Traité d'accompagnement? First of all, we know that the treatise was written after 1707, because the author cites two books published that year: Michel de Saint-Lambert's Nouveau Traité de l'accompagnement and the fifth edition of Michel L'Affilard's Principes (pp. 36, 37). However, the author does not mention the recent publications of Raguenet and Lecerf de la Viéville on the dispute about Italian and French music.

We can also deduce that the Traité was written by a mature man: I personally would guess that he was educated in the 1660s. That is to say, he employs some archaic spellings — for example, maistre or estre — that, starting in the 1670s, would probably have meant a scolding for schoolboys. It therefore seems that he was a rough contemporary of Marc-Antoine Charpentier, who was born in 1643, who finished his studies at eighteen in 1662, and whose spelling abounded with archaic renderings. A "rough contemporary": that is, a bit younger than Charpentier, because the gamut of archaicisms in the Traité is considerably smaller than in Charpentier's scores. Even if one supposes that the unidentified treatise-writer learned spelling from an elderly and conservative schoolmaster, I still think it unlikely that he was born after 1655 at the latest, which would make him Loulié's close contemporary.

The author can scarcely have been Président Jean-Jacques Le Vayer de Marcilly, whose name appears on one of the front endpapers. Born in 1678 and doubtlessly benefitting from a solid education during the final decades of the seventeenth century, Le Vayer scarcely would have used such archaic spelling. Nor is it likely that the author was Sébastien de Brossard: the handwriting is totally different, and in addition Brossard almost certainly would have kept a copy for his personal collection or would have alluded to losing the manuscript.

In short, the archaic spelling of the Traité suggests that the author was between fifty and sixty years of age, circa 1707. For the period, he was therefore rather old; he probably would not live much longer, and if he did, he might find it increasingly difficult to write legibly owing to arthritis and failing vision. Archaic the spelling may be, but the handwriting itself is sure, with none of the tremors and jerkiness associated with the writing of septuagenarians. Everything taken together, I propose that the Traité de l'accompagnement was written circa 1710. Musicologists searching to identify the author and his handwriting should therefore focus on someone who was born around 1645 (or 1655 at the latest) and who died between 1710 and 1720.

The manuscript: how might it have come to be appended to the longer treatise?

The unidentified theorist clearly valued the Charpentier manuscript highly. In the table of contents to his own treatise, he stated that the "second part" of his treatise consisted of a text on dissonances, which was supposed to start on page 47 — and that does indeed start on that page. This discussion of dissonances continues through page 52. It is in the theorist's hand, but it may have been someone else's "dissertation" that he copied out for his own use.

After this discussion of dissonances — according to the table of contents — came "several curious dissertations," plusieurs dissertations curieuses, that also were supposed to start on page 47. In reality, the next document begins on the equivalent of page 53, and it is the little Charpentier autograph treatise. When the unidentified author of the Traité used the plural, "dissertations," was he thinking solely of Charpentier's multi-section format where each section was described as a "treatise"? Or did he use the plural because he was also appending the printed pages of Borjon's forty-year-old Traité de la musette of 1672 that now follow the Charpentier manuscript? Put another way, was Borjon's printed treatise on the musette, which immediately follow the Charpentier treatise, one of these "curious dissertations"? And/or did other curious dissertations, now lost, originally follow immediately after Charpentier's manuscript "XLI"? In other words, the author of the Traité is not the person who had the manuscripts bound: he would not have omitted one or more of these "dissertations."

On the other hand, the calligraphed play that concludes the volume can scarcely be described as a "dissertation." This suggests that it, and perhaps the Borjon text, were not juxtaposed with the Traité d'accompagnement until Le Vayer took these three separate documents (minus the "dissertations" that apparently had gone astray)to the binder, to be assembled in a single volume.

Be that as it may, the anonymous author's terminology reveals the respect in which he held the Charpentier manuscript. The Dictionary of the French Academy (1694) defines Dissertation as a "discourse in which one examines carefully some matter, some question, some product of the mind," as in a "savant, exact, judicious dissertation," discours où l'on examine soigneusement quelque matière, quelque question, quelque ouvrage d'esprit ... Sçavante, exacte, judicieuse dissertation. When used about things, continues the Dictionary, Curieux/ curieuse denotes something "rare, new, extraordinary, excellent in its genre," rare, nouveau, extraordinaire, excellent dans son genre, as in the phrase "full of rare and curious things," rempli de choses rares et curieuses.
"I got this from the late Charpentier and Loulié"

No explanation is provided by the author of the Traité as to how the pages in Charpentier's hand came into his possession. That is, he did not affix to the little manuscript the least indication that it was by Charpentier. Yet he clearly was aware that Chapentier wrote it. Indeed, as I wrote in Part IV of the Discovery Musing, "The unidentified author of the Traité says it three times, in three different ways: Charpentier wrote that little manuscript."

Concerning the first two statements, I will continue quoting myself:

The first allusion to Charpentier's authorship appears on page 18 [of the Traité d'accompagnement] In the left-hand margin the author wrote: Principes de Charpentier, Ière Regle, Point d'harmonie sans tierce à plusieurs parties, ou contre la basse. This "first rule" is actually an amalgam of the brief rule at the top of folio 1 recto of the Lilly autograph (Point d'harmonie sans tierce), and the first point in the final "recapitulation" on folio 6 verso that ends the Lilly manuscript (Faites tierce contre la basse ou entre les parties, autrement point d'harmonie). In other words, the author knew full well that the little manuscript was by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. (Note that he called the manuscript "Principes," a title that calls to mind Loulié's Élements ou Principes.)

The second mention of Charpentier is found on page 20: La quarte consonance se pratique encore encore les parties, sans estre liée, ny sauvée. C'estoit l'opinion de feu Charpentier. Here the author of the Traité was quoting quite accurately folio 4 recto of the Lilly autograph: La Quarte considerée comme consonance se pratique entre les parties sans estre liée ny sauvée .... To be precise, first he quoted a point made in the autograph [manuscript], and then he asserted that this was "the late Charpentier's opinion." Quoting from the manuscript and attributing the quotation to Charpentier is tantamount to stating, albeit somewhat less overtly, that Charpentier was the author of manuscript "XLI."

In his third and final allusion to Charpentier (p. 26), the anonymous author provides a tantalizing clue about how he came to possess the Charpentier autograph. In one sentence he evokes both Charpentier and Charpentier's longtime colleague, Étienne Loulié:

"One usually gives beginners a routine rule: to first put nothing but thirds above the bass they are given to work on, then to mix in some sixths, and eventually the other consonances, with the exception of fourths, which require special instructions. These observations are accepted in all composition treatises, and I got them from the late Charpentier and from Loulié," On donne ordinairement une règle de routine au commençans: c'est de faire d'abord des tierces seulement sur la basse, qu'on leur donne pour travailler, puis d'y mesler les sixtes, et par la suite les autres consonances, à la réserve de la quarte, pour laquelle il faut une instruction particulière: Ces observations sont reçues dans touts les traités de composition, et je les tiens de feu Charpentier et de Loulier. (emphasis added)

"I got them from the late Charpentier and from Loulier"! (Elsewhere, he spells Loulié's name correctly.) There are two ways to read this sentence: 1) he got the information from a book or a manuscript or manuscripts drafted by these two theorists; or 2) he got the information from the two theorists themselves.

This amazing statement sent me to Loulié's published treatises: Les Eléments, l'Abrégé des Principes de musique, and Le Nouveau Sistème. I found no such advice. In other words, although he cited Loulié's book elsewhere in the Traité, the owner of the Charpentier manuscript did not get this bit of information from one of Loulié's books. And, of course, he scarcely could have gotten the information from a book by Charpentier, because none was published.

I next turned to the newly identified Charpentier autograph manuscript, but in vain. Then I pored over Loulié's copies of Charpentier's Règles de composition and Augmentations, as well as Loulié's abridgement of Charpentier's lost Règles de l'accompagnement. Also in vain. In other words, the anonymous author does not appear to have consulted a pirated copy of one or another of these three manuscript treatises by Charpentier.

How, then, to explain the statement about having gotten the information from both Charpentier and Loulié? The reply seems to be that the anonymous author was acquainted with both theorists, and he had discussed composition and accompaniment with them, face to face.

In the back of my mind hovered a recollection that, during the mid-1690s (1695-1698, as best I can judge), Loulié had been working intensively on composition and somewhat less so on accompaniment, producing seven treatises on the subjects in a relatively brief time. I dug out my microfilm of BnF, ms. n.a. fr. 6355, Loulié's autograph manuscripts.

And voilà! I found something quite close to the quote I was looking for; still, the quote is stated from the perspective of a beginning-level composition lesson, rather than a beginning-level accompaniment lesson. That is, the unidentified theorist's statement does indeed reflect Loulié's (and presumably Charpentier's) approach to working with beginners. It's just that the beginners are learning to compose, not to accompany, and they are therefore writing a melody rather than filling in chords with their right hand.

Here are some examples of Loulié's approach for beginners. In his brief "Methode pour apprendre la Composition de musique" (ms. IX, fols. 72-75v), he shows two staves: one has a rudimentary bass line and, above it, there is a blank stave where the beginner can compose a melody. Just below the blank stave are numbers that represent the consonances to be used: 3, 5, 8, and 6. (There are no 4's.) Only when the pupil is at ease with these four intervals does he move on to the less straightforward intervals that Loulié discusses later in the treatise. Or take an Abrégé (ms. X, fols. 76-80) that limits itself to melodies, chords, and rudimentary composition by "simple counterpoint." On fol. 77 of that method Loulié wrote: Dans le Contrepoint simple on ne se sert que des Consonances, sçavoir les 3, 5, 8 ou 6. In like manner, his more elaborate methods of composition begin by coaching the student to restrict himself initially to thirds, fifths, and octaves, that is, "to follow the natural order of chords," suivre l'ordre naturel des accords (e.g., ms. V, fols. 34, 37v).

In sum, the anonymous author does indeed seem to have been acquainted with both men, and at some point these men shared their thoughts with him. In fact, he knew Charpentier so well that he gained access to the composer's manuscripts and was either permitted to take one home with him or else was given manuscript "XLI" by Charpentier's heirs, as a momento. That he did not put "late" before Loulié's name (Loulié died in 1702) suggests that he lost contact with Loulié at some point in the late 1690s. By contrast, as his ownership of Manuscript "XLI" suggests, he either remained in contact with Charpentier until shortly before his death in 1704, or else he obtained the Lilly autograph from the composer's heirs.

This is a fact of considerable import. It makes it possible to assert that the anonymous treatise at the Lilly Library provides crucial information, not only about how tonal harmony was understood by a very exclusive group of musicians and scientists working in Paris in the late 1690s (among them Charpentier and Loulié), but also about how tonal harmony was being presented to other musicians during the first decade or so of the eighteenth century.

This intriguing allusion to how Loulié and Charpentier went about teaching music, provides additional information for Charpentier scholars. We previously knew that Charpentier taught music during the 1690s. Le Cerf de la Viéville's Comparaison (Brussels, 1705, p. 297) states that Charpentier taught composition; and Du Pradel's Livre commode des adresses (1692) lists him among the maîtres de musique of the capital. Recently, Érik Kocevar, "L'orgue du collège Louis-le-Grand au XVIIe siècle à la lumière d'un marché d'orgues inédit," Recherches sur la musique française classique, 31 (2004-2007), pp. 165-80, revealed that Charpentier was at least a competent organist and harpsichordist. Now, thanks to a remark dropped by an anonymous author, we know that Charpentier almost certainly was more than a competent harpsichordist. He taught the art of keyboard accompaniment. And he used a pedagogical approach that was similar to Loulié's.

Even more, Charpentier clearly remained quite close to Loulié over the years. That is something I have never dared previously assert, for lack of evidence. Whether the two men agreed more often than they disagreed is, of course, a matter of conjecture; but it might be profitable to compare Charpentier's treatises with the content of Loulié's treatises on composition and accompaniment, circa 1695-98 — and eventually to compare the results of that comparison with the content of the anonymous Traité d'accompagnement to which Charpentier's recently discovered treatise was appended.

A context where the author of the Traité d'accompagnement doubtlessly occupied a place

Pursuing the above questions and suggestions will require some determined searching within a broader framework that I sketched out twenty years ago. Since that time, I have been unable to add anything new, and I don't foresee disposing in the near future of the requisite time in Paris and its multiple libraries and archives.

To orient researchers who are on the spot and can pursue the matter, I am condensing my old research here on Loulié, Charpentier, and their theoretical and educational activities. (For Loulié and Brossard and the Duke of Chartres, see especially my "Etienne Loulié" in Recherches; and for Brossard in Paris in the 1680s, my "À la recherche de son avenir.")

1670 Charpentier has returned from 2-3 years in Rome and begins to write for the Guises.

1673 Loulié leaves the Sainte-Chapelle, where he was mentored by René Ouvrard, and enters the service of the Guises.

1678 Sébastien de Brossard comes to Paris.

1683 Loulié is finishing his first decade as musician at the Hôtel de Guise where Charpentier is the household composer. Perhaps as early as 1683, Loulié begins writing music methods (viol and recorder) intended for music teachers.

c.1683 Brossard becomes Loulié's close friend.

1683 Brossard talks almost daily with Sir Samuel Morland, an English engineer, mathematician, musical enthusiast, and Italianophile. Brossard draws up a treatise about "les classes génériques des modes" (that is, major and minor keys) and gives Morland a copy.

1685 Italian music is being played at the Hotel de Guise; Charpentier is setting Italian texts to music.

1687 By now, Brossard has shared his "discovery" about major and minor keys with Étienne Loulié, Charles Masson, and Jacques Ozanam. Each subsequently publishes this discovery under his own name.

1687 Brossard moves to Strasbourg and although he remains in touch with his friends in Paris, he makes brief visits to Paris. This pattern continues when he is appointed at Meaux. He begins to collect Italian music and theoretical writings.

1687 The adolescent Duke of Chartres begins his musical education. At some point, Loulié is chosen to teach the prince both the practice and the science of music — the latter facet worked out with the gifted mathematician, Joseph Sauveur. Loulié's Éléments, published in 1696, is an "authentic testimony" to what went on in these classes.

1691 Chartres has finished his basic musical and scientific studies, working primarily with Loulié and Sauveur.

c.1690 Charpentier writes the Règles de l'accompagnement, now lost.

1692 Chartres then studies composition with Charpentier; he finishes in May 1693. The prince's (and the teacher's) opera, Philomèle, is performed in 1694.

c.1693 Loulié has made a copy of Charpentier's Règles de composition, and now he copies out the Augmentations that Charpentier had incorporated into a later version of the Règles. To do so, Loulié consults a presentation copy ("original") that Charpentier had given to the Duke of Chartres.

1693 Sauveur, under the aegis of the Royal Academy of Sciences, begins his research on "the Science of Sound." Since Sauveur has a severe hearing impairment, Chartres helps him by providing musicians who will be his "ears." Among them is Loulié. From this collaboration comes Loulié's Nouveau Sistème (1697).

1695 Loulié has begun focusing on composition: from 1695-1699, he writes 6 treatises on composition and 2 on transposition and chords.

1698 Charpentier is named master of the Sainte-Chapelle thanks to the protection of the Duke of Chartres, his "disciple."

1698 Charpentier copies out Manuscript "XLI."

1699 Loulié presents his sonomètre before the Academy of Sciences.

1700 The musicians break with Sauveur over conflicts between practice and theory.

1701 Loulié falls ill; he no longer is working on composition; he is studying the "Music of the Ancients."

1702 Loulié dies; his autograph manuscripts go to Brossard.

1703 Brossard publishes his Dictionnaire of Italian terms.

1704 Charpentier dies; his compositions for the Sainte-Chapelle are confiscated by the royal administration, but his sister keeps his other manuscripts.

1705 With the help of Gervais, two operas by the Duke of Chartres are performed this year: Renaud et Armide and Penthée. (Chartres also composed motets and cantatas, as well as another opera, Suite d'Armide ou La Jérusalem délivrée, 1712.)

1709 Charpentier's sister dies and the manuscripts go to Jacques Édouard, her nephew.

c.1710 An unidentified theorist writes the Traité de l'Accompagnement and alludes to conversations with both Charpentier and Loulié.

1717 Jacques Ozanam, Brossard's friend, dies. (I have found no death date for Charles Masson, another friend.)

c.1720 Président Le Vayer acquires the Traité de l'Accompagnement (and Ms "XLI") and has it bound.

1724 Brossard offers his collection to the Royal Library.

1727 Charpentier's manuscript scores are purchased by the Royal Library.

1730 Brossard dies.

Somewhere in the network sketched above (but probably not mentioned in it) was someone who was born in the 1640s and who not only played the harpsichord but was engrossed in the "rules" for doing so.


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