In this groundbreaking new study, Kate van Orden examines noble education in the arts to show how music contributed to cultural and social transformation in early modern French society. She constructs a fresh account of music's importance in promoting the absolutism that the French monarchy would fully embrace under Louis XIV, uncovering many hitherto unpublished ballets and royal ceremonial performances.
The great pressure on French noblemen to take up the life of the warrior gave rise to bellicose art forms such as sword dances and equestrian ballets. Far from being construed as effeminizing, such combinations of music and the martial arts were at once refined and masculine-a perfect way to display military prowess. The incursion of music into riding schools and infantry drills contributed materially to disciplinary order, enabling the larger and more effective armies of the seventeenth century. This book is a history of the development of these musical spheres and how they brought forth new cultural priorities of civility, military discipline, and political harmony. Music, Discipline, and Arms in Early Modern France effectively illustrates the seminal role music played in mediating between the cultural spheres of letters and arms.