Music and Power in Early Modern France:
From: Case Western Reserve University, UK
In residence at: Centre d’Etudes Supérieures de la Renaissance, Université François-Rabelais Tours
Louis XIV is generally regarded as one of the most powerful rulers in history, the archetypal “absolute” monarch who raised the notion of kingship to its highest point. Using the symbolism of classical antiquity or mythology (the King as Apollo, Alexander the Great, etc.), or of the medieval or Judeo-Christian traditions (the King as King David, Saint Louis, Charlemagne), the Sun King engaged in an unprecedented program of artistic production in which he was “represented” to his people and through which his power was projected. In musical terms these two strategies found their expression in opera (which generally adopted mythological themes) and sacred music (for which the Psalms of King David provided the literary model and which were performed in a new Chapelle Royale (1710) inspired by Saint-Louis’s Sainte-Chapelle). My project considers the representational strategies used during the reign of Louis XIII, using the tools of music and liturgy to reconstruct and explore the role of Judeo-Christian imagery. In particular, it focuses on the ceremonial entrée, a spectacle in which the King would enter a conquered town through an elaborate series of arches (in imitation of a Roman triumph) before being invited into the cathedral for a ceremony that, we assume, re-affirmed Louis’s status as king. My talk will explain the background to the project in more detail and present some of the preliminary findings and their significance.