The first systematic study of French baroque music to analyze melody and lyrics rather than notational rhythms, counterpoint, and harmony, this guide presents the phrasing, rhetoric, and expression that is woven into the melodies of sung dances. Its close reading of rhetorical and poetic writings of the period, combined with its presentation of basic French linguistic patterns and speech rhythms, opens the way to a deeper historical understanding of French baroque music. Proudly standing apart from its European neighbors, the music of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France represented a conscious synthesis of French speech rhythms, French rhetorical practices and French theatrical recitation. As such, it demands its own performance style.
Speech and its melodies constituted what the French prior to Rameau thought of as harmony. Twentieth-century performers and listeners who read this book will take increased pleasure in French baroque music when they can view the airs as miniature orations in which speech and music fuse to form a poetic whole.