A Case for Charpentier

A Case for Charpentier

Treatise on Accompaniment and Composition

Historical Performance

by Carla E. Williams

Published by: Indiana University Press

176 pages, 178.00 x 254.00 x 0.00 mm, 41 b&w illus., 8 b&w tables, 78 printed music items

  • ISBN: 9780253051615
  • Published: January 2021



Who originally authored the anonymous, undated French manuscript Traité d'accompagnement et de composition?

Carla E. Williams tackles this mystery while providing the first English translation of this rare manuscript, which resides in the collections of the Lilly Library at Indiana University Bloomington. A Case for Charpentier presents a side-by-side transcription and translation of the treatise along with an introduction that offers historical context. In the manuscript itself, late 17th-century and early 18th-century writers discuss principal musical elements of composition including major and minor modes, the fundamental chords of both modes, dissonances and consonances, meter, tempo, and continuo realization, as well as basse continue. While these writers have not been formally identified, Williams argues that the handwriting of one is that of composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier. By providing a full physical description of the manuscript, along with comparisons of Charpentier's other writings and his handwriting, Williams sheds new light on both the treatise and Charpentier's theoretical writings.

With this translation, Williams not only shares invaluable insights into the pedagogical approaches for composition and continuo realization in late 17th-century France but also finally makes Traité d'accompagnement et de composition available to a broader audience.