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Rameau’s Changing Views on Supposition and Suspension

Rameau’s Changing Views on Supposition and Suspension The precise sense of Jean Philippe Rameau’s conception of supposition is among the more vexing questions that his theorizing poses. Supposition has been interpreted, on the one hand, as an account of ninth and eleventh chords and, on the other, as a means of explaining melodic suspensions. Understanding Rameau’s doctrine means, in part, retracing the many refinements, revisions, and reversals that it underwent over the course of its author’s career. This article accordingly reconstructs the development of supposition from the Traité de l’harmonie (1722) to the Code de musique pratique (1760), with particular attention to the extensive discussion of the topic in the “Art de la basse fondamentale” (c. 1737–43). To a considerable degree, Rameau’s conception of supposition was worked out in dialogue with his critics. Retracing that dialogue helps to clarify a number of points: First, Rameau revised his account of supposition continually. Second, the impetus for these revisions was, in many cases, the intervention of a prominent critic. Third, these critics did not, as has been claimed, misunderstand Rameau’s account of supposition; rather, they disputed it (the second musicien ) or extended it (Charles-Henri de Blainville and Jean-Jacques Rousseau). Fourth, the eventual form that Rameau’s doctrine took was significantly influenced by these criticisms; indeed, Rameau tended to appropriate those aspects of his interlocutors’ arguments that he ended up finding germane. And fifth, it emerges from this inquiry that supposition is not solely a means of accounting for melodic suspensions; it is also an attempt to explain a number of idiomatic sonorities that are endemic to French baroque music, and to the grand motet in particular. In general, this article aims to provide a more detailed and more nuanced account of supposition than has thus far been available by attending not only to Rameau’s own writings but also to the writings of his early critics and to the musical repertories that were these writers’ frame of reference. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Music Theory Duke University Press

Rameau’s Changing Views on Supposition and Suspension

Journal of Music Theory , Volume 56 (2) – Sep 21, 2012

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright © Duke Univ Press
ISSN
0022-2909
eISSN
1941-7497
DOI
10.1215/00222909-1650397
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The precise sense of Jean Philippe Rameau’s conception of supposition is among the more vexing questions that his theorizing poses. Supposition has been interpreted, on the one hand, as an account of ninth and eleventh chords and, on the other, as a means of explaining melodic suspensions. Understanding Rameau’s doctrine means, in part, retracing the many refinements, revisions, and reversals that it underwent over the course of its author’s career. This article accordingly reconstructs the development of supposition from the Traité de l’harmonie (1722) to the Code de musique pratique (1760), with particular attention to the extensive discussion of the topic in the “Art de la basse fondamentale” (c. 1737–43). To a considerable degree, Rameau’s conception of supposition was worked out in dialogue with his critics. Retracing that dialogue helps to clarify a number of points: First, Rameau revised his account of supposition continually. Second, the impetus for these revisions was, in many cases, the intervention of a prominent critic. Third, these critics did not, as has been claimed, misunderstand Rameau’s account of supposition; rather, they disputed it (the second musicien ) or extended it (Charles-Henri de Blainville and Jean-Jacques Rousseau). Fourth, the eventual form that Rameau’s doctrine took was significantly influenced by these criticisms; indeed, Rameau tended to appropriate those aspects of his interlocutors’ arguments that he ended up finding germane. And fifth, it emerges from this inquiry that supposition is not solely a means of accounting for melodic suspensions; it is also an attempt to explain a number of idiomatic sonorities that are endemic to French baroque music, and to the grand motet in particular. In general, this article aims to provide a more detailed and more nuanced account of supposition than has thus far been available by attending not only to Rameau’s own writings but also to the writings of his early critics and to the musical repertories that were these writers’ frame of reference.

Journal

Journal of Music TheoryDuke University Press

Published: Sep 21, 2012

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