9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN02 Sociology of the Arts

2009-09-03 15:30:00 2009-09-03 17:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 15:30 - 17:00 Arts and Gender Building II, C6.10

The Denial of the Reception of Women in Baroque French Music: New Discoveries of Women Musicians in the Relation of Court and Church

This paper explores the denial of the reception of women composers in Baroque French Music, and presents a new discovery -a woman composer in a convent with relations to the French court. Until recently no French nun composers were known. In 1997, an archival discovery was made, a Processional from a famous Abbey, listing a Magnificat by a woman amongst the most famous composers of Grand and Petits Motets. The convent abbess, related to Louis XIV, was Adelaide d´Orleans, the daughter of the Regent. I visited the archives, examined and photocopied the Ms. Her Magnificat has been added recently to the electronic archive of French Motets. Famous seventeenth century women composers are now being rediscovered. During the 1980´s, the editing of Elysabeth Jacquet de la Guerre´s music brought new interest to the music of the period revising our former knowledge of the social context of musical production of the Baroque. This underscores that there has been a recurrent denial of women´s role in Baroque music. A sociology of knowledge/reception studies approach displays that since then, although successful during their lifetime, women composers vanished from the canon. In the late 1600´s women´s compositions were published in the most renowned collections; newly created French national academies including the Opera opened to women who received the right to perform onstage as professionals. All this ended with the Convention Nationale and the Napoleonic Code of Law. Studies on music by women were initiated again toward the end of the nineteen century, but the role of women as composers in France was erased again. In this context, we explore our findings on the Abbey and the role of women in Baroque music. Women from the aristocracy and bourgeoisie populated Benedictine convents. Abbess Adelaide d´Orleans, raised at this Benedictine convent, introduced a new brilliance to the religious services by inaugurating instrumental accompaniment. A nun was the principal organist of the Abbey which implies that she had learned improvisation and composition. This paper reevaluates our understanding of gender roles in the French Baroque.