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Title: The Enlightenment in Concert: The Concert Spirituel and Religious Music in Secular Spaces, 1725-1790
Authors: Pesic, Andrei
Advisors: Grafton, Anthony T
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Art and religion
Concert spirituel
Subjects: European history
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: What can concerts teach us about the Enlightenment? This dissertation is a cultural history of eighteenth-century musical culture focusing on the Concert spirituel in Paris, one of the earliest and longest-running concert series in early modern Europe. From 1725–1790, the Concert spirituel presented a mixture of sacred and secular music when other entertainments were forbidden during religious holidays. The Concert underwent decisive changes over the course of the eighteenth century. It began as an institution linked to the liturgical calendar and closely tied to the court at Versailles, playing the same religious motets that could be heard in the king’s chapel. By the end of the century, the Concert was dominated by secular music, especially the new genre of the symphony. Contemporary observers of the Concert ranged from austere religious writers to witty philosophes; some condemned its transposition of sacred music into a profane space, others praised the quality of its performances. Yet all these commentators noted the Concert’s distinctive combination of elite sociability and worldly Catholicism. Using archival sources as well as contemporary periodicals and treatises, this dissertation analyzes the meanings attached to music and proposes a new model of cultural change in the eighteenth century: a process of “inadvertent secularization” transformed what had begun as a fundamentally conservative institution. This process reflected market pressure exerted by various new concert series and other entertainments created in Paris during the second half of the eighteenth century. Rather than narrating the Enlightenment as a battle between the philosophes and the Church, I show that even an unenlightened institution could take part in processes of Enlightenment. The Concert spirituel was widely imitated across Europe and also in a French colony. Two chapters of this study focus on the imitators of the Concert spirituel in Berlin and in the Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti). This dissertation provides a transnational analysis of an institution that changed as it moved across borders. Though the Concert spirituel ended during the French Revolution, its distinctive combination of entertainment and worldly religion constitute an important moment in the intertwined history of art and religious practices.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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