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Harmonia Time Capsule: 1715, Music Publications

English composer and organist James Nares (1715-1783), from a stipple engraving by Thomas Hardy.

In 1715, one of the first books in France to be called a history of music was published by Jacques Bonnet Bourdelot. Compiled from the writings of several of his family members, Bourdelot’s L’Histoire de la musique et de ses effets is a diverse text including sections on Hebrew, Chinese, and Persian music, along with anecdotes about the effects of music on animals.  L’Histoire de la musique is at times marvelously opinionated as well! It compares Italian music to “a featherbrained woman” and an “amiable coquette” while likening a more refined French taste to a “beautiful woman whose simple, natural, artless beauty wins the hearts of all those who gaze upon her…

The same year Bourdelot published his history of music, clergyman and amateur musician John Brown was born in England.  Later in life, Brown would write his own history of music elaborately titled, A Dissertation on the Rise, Union and Power, the Progressions, Separations and Corruptions of Poetry and Music...  A premise of Brown’s dissertation was that ancient Greek society had perfected the arts while music of modern times had since been in continual decline.

Two other Englishmen born in 1715 were James Grassineau and James Nares. Grassineau’s Musical Dictionary, eventually published in London, is credited as one of the first important dictionaries of music in English.  Nares’ method book, Il principio or a Regular Introduction to Playing on the Harpsichord or Organ, contained 3 essays and 8 pieces, which among other topics addressed the development of weak fingers, trills and ornamentation.

Perhaps the numerous publications of dictionaries, histories, methods and treatises in the 18th century can be attributed in part to the greater ease and profitability of printing during this time.  In 1715, the German composer, Georg Philipp Telemann began to self-publish his own compositions. Over the next 25 years, he produced at least 42 publications under his own imprint.  Impressively, that’s only a ‘needle in the haystack’ of his total compositional output: recent scholarship suggests that Telemann wrote over 3,000 compositions during his lifetime!

Like Telemann, the Catalan composer Jayme de la Tê y Sagau, also began printing his own music in 1715 after establishing his Imprenta de Música. These printings circulated all the way to Guatemala, where performances of his cantatas continued into the late 18th century.

Music heard on this time capsule:

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