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Pascal Boyer's publications suggest a man of unusual gifts and his astute reviews of specific performances mark the beginning of modern journalistic criticism. To date, little more than a sketch of his life and works exists, but some publications have credited him with work that is not his. For example, the brochure La soiree perdue a l'opera (1776), ascribed to Boyer in 1777 by the Almanach musical, is by Francois Arnaud, and included in his Oeuvres completes. Since this brochure appears in the collection of mostly Gluckist writing edited by Gaspard Michel Leblond (Memoires pour servir a l'histoire de la revolution operee dans la musique par M. le chevalier Gluck [1781]), Boyer has sometimes been credited with contributing to it (1). In La soiree, Arnaud's praise of Christoph Willibald Gluck and distaste for Italian music accords with his other writing and journalistic style. Boyer, on the other hand, supported Italian music and wrote an extensive article about Giovanni Battista Pergolesi.

A small brochure entitled L'Expression musicale, mise au rang des chimeres (1779) by an individual identified only as Boye, continues to be assigned conditionally to Pascal Boyer in current reference works, but its contents differ greatly from Boyer's views in verifiable writings (2). While Boye largely denies that music can have expressive capability, Boyer recognises its importance as a vehicle for expression. Since Boye's identity was unknown even to his contemporaries, the name may be a pseudonym. The similarity between these two names apparently led The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians to include Boye in the heading for its article about Pascal Boyer, and to also list Boye's brochure among Boyer's writings (with the caveat "[attrib. Boyer]"). Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, too, adds "Boye?" to the heading for its article about Pascal Boyer, and says that he is "perhaps" the writer of L'Expression musicale.

Jean-Benjamin de Laborde's Essai sur la musique (1780) has separate entries for Pascal Boyer and Boye (3). For the latter, it notes only the publication of L'Expression musicale, but for Boyer, it offers biographical information and discusses his Lettre a M. Diderot, sur le projet de l'unite de clef dans la musique et la reforme des mesures ... (1767). In his Biographie universelle des musiciens (1861), Francois-Joseph Fetis affirms that Joseph-Marie Querard (La France litteraire, 1827) erred in attributing Boye's work to Pascal Boyer. Investigating this subject will also reveal Boyer's considerable talent for incisive criticism of specific music performances.

Pascal Boyer and Criticism

Born in 1743 at Tarascon in Provence, Boyer became music director at the cathedral of Nimes in 1759 and six years later moved to Paris. Probably at the suggestion of the encyclopedist Denis Diderot, he published the above Lettre, which criticises notation alterations proposed in Joseph Lacassagne's Traite general des elements du chant (Paris, 1766). Boyer also touches on other subjects pertinent to performance, and his quotations from a wide range of earlier writers indicate considerable breadth of knowledge. At this time, it was rare for a practicing musician to have had a general education sufficient to enable such literary achievement. In one passage from the Lettre, Boyer takes musicians to task for disregarding rhythm; in particular, singers who took extra time to insert ornaments and various effects--embellishments that were called gout de chant:
   ... tous les avertissemens que portent nos signes, sont comme sans
   necessite pour celui qui n'a ni le tact de la mesure, ni le
   sentiment distinct des deux mouvemens dont j'ai parle....
   L'execution du projet de M. La Cassagne pourra, sans doute, etre
   utile a un tres-grand nombre de personnes (aa); mais elle ne
   scauroit l'etre a quiconque voudra devenir Musicien, j'entends
   Musicien ayant de la mesure; & ce n'est pas-la, chez nous, un

      (aa) Ceux qui executent la Musique vocale, dans ce qu'on est
      parvenu a appeller le gout de chant, n'ont besoin que de
      scavoir a combien de tems il faut battre chaque mesure: le
      nombre des notes qui composent les tems ne fait pas une
      difficulte pour eux, puisqu'ils ne passent d'un tems a un
      autre que quand ils ont commodement fini tout ce qu'ils
      vouloient dire dans un tems (4).

   [... all the information conveyed by our time signatures is
   unnecessary for one who has neither a sense of rhythm nor a
   distinct feeling for the two movements [binary and ternary] I have
   just discussed.... The execution of M. Lacassagne's project could
   doubtless be useful to a great many people (aa), but not to one who
   wants to become a musician--I mean a musician who has [a sense of]
   rhythm, and with us, this is no redundancy.

      (aa) Those who execute vocal music in what has succeeded in
      being called gout de chant do not need to know how many beats
      to make in each measure. The number of notes comprising the
      beats causes them no difficulty, for they proceed from one
      beat to another only when they have comfortably finished
      everything they wanted to say in one beat].

To the modern musician trained with the metronome from an early age, it is difficult to imagine the erratic rhythm that occurred before this device (invented in 1816) became more widely adopted toward the twentieth century for training in rhythmic steadiness (5). The Encyclopedists, among others, were attracted to Italian music in part because its simple motor rhythms and drum basses were more successful in projecting a beat and keeping the ensemble together. If French music had been performed as well as Italian music, it is possible that the Querelle des Bouffons in the 1750s would never have taken place. In this contest of unequals, French tragedie lyrique was pitted against Italian opera buffa.

Boyer conveys his knowledge of Italian music in a 1772 article for the Mercure de France: "Notices sur la vie & les ouvrages de Pergolese". Visiting the places where Pergolesi lived and the theatres where his music was performed, Boyer became acquainted with people who had known him personally, including the composer Egidio Romualdo Duni (1708-1775) and Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714-1789), whom Boyer finds to be "as great a musician as he is a painter". Boyer's article corrects misinformation then current and furnishes further biographical data. In contrast to Boye's negative judgments about music's expressive capabilities, Boyer writes: "The Italians unanimously agree that no one has surpassed him [Pergolesi] in musical Expression" (italics original) (6).

Another Boyer article, which appeared in the Journal de politique et de litterature (1776), is cogent and constructive in seeking to improve the standards of the Paris Opera orchestra. Describing the orchestra's execution as essentially languishing and monotonous ("l'execution de notre Orchestre devient essentiellement languissante & monotone"), he declines discussing the character of French music because it would only resuscitate old quarrels that delay the art's progress. Instead, he focuses on performance matters:
   Je dirai seulement que les sons trainans & penibles de quelques
   Acteurs, le defaut de mesure dans nos Actrices, & plus que tout
   cela, l'innombrable quantite de notes oisives dont nos Compositeurs
   chargent leurs partitions, ne sont gueres capables de produire dans
   notre Orchestre cet ensemble qui etonne & qui ravit (7).

   [I will only say that some [male] singers' dragging and labored
   style, the lack of rhythm among our [female] singers, and, above
   all, the countless useless notes with which our composers overload
   their scores are scarcely capable of producing in our orchestra an
   ensemble that astonishes and delights].

Boyer's criticism of composers concerns the fact that their writing often exceeded the capabilities of players' technique and the instruments themselves--and thus were poorly performed. Unaware that the wind and brass instruments had severe limitations, most composers simply wrote for them as they did for keyboard or violin, instruments that permitted much greater fluency (8). The quality of the orchestral instruments was another factor. According to Boyer: "except for some of the principal accompanists and others with love for their art, the orchestra uses very mediocre instruments, whose harsh, hard sounds distress the sensitive listener's ear while they [simultaneously] fatigue and repulse the player. How could it be otherwise? As long as his salary is only 300 or 400 livres per year, it is impossible for a musician to obtain a good instrument and attend without aversion four performances a week in winter, three in summer, and all the rehearsals". For better results, he adds, "salaries must be increased" (9). In contrast, salaries and emoluments for principal singers were in the 5000-livre range some forty years earlier.

In his biography of Boyer, Laborde declares: "For the past dozen years, there are few works about music in which he has not had some part, and the journals are filled with selections or judicious critiques he has made" (10). Most of this writing is probably unsigned and remains to be identified. Perhaps he penned some of the articles in the Journal de musique during the 1770s, since they are similar in style and content to his known writings.

There is a remarkable resemblance between Boyer's 1767 Lettre a M. Diderot and a subsequent Methode de musique sur un nouveau plan (Paris, 1769) by an individual identified only as "Jacob". Although this adult-level primer for learning to read vocal music adds instructional material, substantial portions call to mind Boyer's Lettre. Evidence cited in a recent article supports the conclusion that Jacob (the Paris Opera roster includes a Jacob among its violinists) was a pseudonym for Boyer, whose implied mission was to raise the Opera's performance standards by teaching singers to read music, for most sang by rote (11). The similarity in writing style also points to Boyer as the author of both publications. After the unflattering remarks he had made about singers in his Lettre a M. Diderot, Boyer would have had to adopt a pseudonym to enable his work to reach the intended audience.

Whereas music criticism at this time was written by men of letters and only occasionally concerns the quality of performance, Boyer's unsigned reviews (1776-1780) for the Courrier de l'Europe, an international journal published twice weekly in London under various names between 1776 and 1792, reveal an astute musician, and constitute an early example of journalistic music criticism as we know it. The following excerpts demonstrate his ability to cite specifically why a performance was inadequate. In June 1777, Boyer notes that the Academie Royale de Musique (the Paris Opera) has just revived Cephale & Procris, adding that Andre-Ernest-Modeste Gretry "treated with nobility and expression" all the pieces where the librettist Jean-Francois Marmontel had provided opportunity to develop the riches of his art; however:
   Il y a eu si peu d'ensemble aux deux premieres representations, les
   acteurs, l'orchestre etoient si peu animes qu'il y auroit de
   l'injustice a vouloir juger cet ouvrage d'apres une execution aussi
   imparfaite.... il est impossible que tant de traits naturels &
   delicats, tant d'expressions fortes & pathetiques soient rendus par
   des coeurs froids ou inanimes, par des voix fausses ou
   glapissantes. (12)

   [There was so little ensemble during the first two performances and
   the singers and orchestra showed so little animation that it would
   be unjust to judge this work after such an imperfect execution....
   it is absurd that so many natural and delicate melodies, so many
   strong and moving expressions are rendered by cold or inanimate
   hearts, by out-of-tune or screeching voices].

Boyer's review indicates that expression is not only possible in music, but also necessary. His critique of the execution is similar to later ones elsewhere in Europe about large-scale works, which suggests that these rarely received a performance doing justice to the composer. In a Courrier de l'Europe review of December 1777 about Hylas & Zelis by Bernard de Bury, Boyer confirms other criticism about the Opera's school:
   C'est dans cet acte qu'on a pu juger avec quelle facilite les
   maitres du magasin de l'Opera parviennent a detruire les esperances
   du public. Mlle. Gavaudan arrivant de sa province sans autres
   lecons que celles de son pere avoit charme tout Paris par le son de
   sa voix pure & flexible, par une prononciation claire & distincte,
   trois mois d'etude au magasin ont totalement change de si heureuses
   dispositions, elle a perdu sa methode simple & naturelle, sa voix
   est eteinte, sa prononciation vicieuse; enfin la plus grande preuve
   qu'elle sort du magasin, c'est qu'elle chante faux depuis la
   premiere note de son role jusqu'a la derniere (13).

   [In this act, one has been able to judge how easily the teachers at
   the Opera's school succeed in destroying the public's hopes.
   Arriving from her province with no lessons than those from her
   father, Mlle. Gavaudan had charmed all Paris with her pure,
   flexible voice, and clear, distinct diction. Three months' study at
   the school have totally changed such auspicious dispositions, for
   she has lost her simple and natural method, her voice is impaired,
   her diction defective. The greatest proof that she is a product of
   the school is that she sings out of tune from the first note of her
   role until the last].

Boyer's last statement is no exaggeration. According to the composer Francois-Joseph Gossec (1734-1829), who in 1780 had been named sous-directeur at the Opera, its school served only to spoil voices, break them, and establish the worst vocal principles. Is it not evident, he asks, that if forced to sing loudly and produce large tones (which characterised French singing at the Opera), the voice will be broken by strain, and the singer made consumptive (14)?

Audience demands played a role in promoting vocal screaming, as described by the writer Francois-Louis d'Escherny when recalling the Opera's 1768 revival of Rameau's Dardanus:
   As you know, French singers have long been criticized for singing
   with too much vigor, even screaming. But I have heard nothing to
   compare with Dardanus. I believe it to be a witticism on the part
   of the parterre [the male standees], which seeks to amuse itself.
   The game is cruel. The last time I went, Legros played Dardanus. He
   gave out with all his voice, which is extremely loud and piercing;
   I found that he screamed like a devil. Not at all--the parterre
   said not a word and did not applaud. Legros exerted himself and
   with effort heaved some swollen, prodigiously bursting sounds.
   Reaching their summit, I did not know which ran the greatest
   danger--his chest or my ears. I shuddered for him ... Poor Legros,
   worn out from the end of the second act, had only some harsh and
   hoarse sounds left. At the third act, he was replaced by a new
   athlete who at first did marvelously well because he was fresh.
   Then there was hand clapping like mad. At the beginning of the
   fifth act, he was already so hoarse that he could scarcely be
   heard. Instantly, from five or six corners of the hall emanated
   five or six hisses. This is the literal truth.... This game seemed
   to me more barbarous than the gladiators of Rome (15).

Instrumental music was more promising, as suggested by Boyer's Courrier de l'Europe review of a varied program on Christmas Eve in the Concert Spirituel series. It opened with a new symphony for two orchestras by Johann Christian Bach, whom Boyer finds superior to all his rivals in this symphonic genre. After then praising Mr. Savoi for choosing an air of gratifying simplicity that was appropriate for his voice, Boyer adds:
   Il n'en a pas ete de meme de Mme. Balconi; cette cantatrice est si
   interessante dans les ariettes qui ne demandent que de la finesse &
   de la grace, qu'on ne lui pardonne pas de chanter des airs de
   Bravoure.... Mr. Sallentin ... atteindra bientot son aine, si plus
   soigneux de rechercher la nettete & la justesse des sons, il veut
   moins s'occuper a passer rapidement des notes qui peuvent bien
   etonner l'oreille, mais qui n'affecteront jamais le coeur (16).

   [The same cannot be said of Mme. Balconi; this singer is so
   interesting in ariettes requiring only finesse and grace that one
   cannot excuse her singing bravura arias.... Mr. Sallentin the
   younger made his debut with a flute concerto. This young man will
   soon equal his elder brother if he is more careful about clarity
   and good intonation, and less preoccupied with playing the notes
   rapidly. These may well astonish the ear but never touch the

Like other connoisseurs on other occasions, Boyer found the simplicity of Savoi's singing more pleasing than Balconi's bravura aria. Arias of this type were often shallow music designed only to show off the singer's voice for undiscriminating audiences. Boyer's praises for Balconi's ability to convey finesse and grace in other music places her on a level well above many singers. And in cautioning the young flautist to avoid speed in favor of expressive playing, Boyer again indicates the importance of expression.

Another Boyer review in the Courrier de l'Europe concerns the Concert Spirituel program during which the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart heard his symphony played:
   Mr. Mozart, cet artiste qui des l'age le plus tendre s'etoit fait
   un nom parmi les clavecinistes, peut etre place aujourd'hui au rang
   des habiles compositeurs (17).

   [Mr. Mozart, this artist who from the most tender age made a name
   among harpsichordists, can today be placed in the rank of skilled

In a letter to his father on 3 July 1778, Mozart reports the success of his symphony. He had heard that the Courrier de l'Europe included a report about it, which meant that 'it had been received exceptionally well'. Its rehearsal, however, was quite different, for "I have in all my life heard nothing worse; you cannot imagine how they botched and scraped the symphony twice in succession--to me it was certainly alarming". There had not been time to correct errors and he decided not to attend the performance. But with better weather he changed his mind and resolved to take the leader Lahouse's violin himself if the performance were as bad as the rehearsal (18).

From around 1781 until 1789, Boyer wrote for the Nouvelles extraordinaires de divers endroits (Leiden), and perhaps other journals. In 1781, political matter in his Nouvelles a la main (now lost) landed him a period of confinement in the Bastille, and in 1789, he began publication of a daily paper, the Gazette universelle, which achieved commercial success. He also published in the Nouvelles politiques, An I and II (=1792-1794). As a result of these turbulent times, he met a premature end at the guillotine in 1794 (19).

With his pithy reviews, Boyer played a role in raising performance standards. The difference that occurred in only twenty-three years is conveyed by Pierre-Louis Ginguene, who in 1791 notes the progress of art and opinion since Jean-Jacques Rousseau published the critical article "Execution" in his Dictionnaire de musique (1768):
   Comme la musique est ordinairement composee de plusieurs parties,
   dont le rapport exact, soit pour l'intonation, soit pour la mesure,
   est extremement difficile a observer ... rien n'est si rare qu'une
   bonne execution (20).

   [Since music is ordinarily composed of several parts, whose exact
   coordination, whether for intonation or for rhythm, is extremely
   difficult to achieve ... nothing is so rare as a good execution].

After quoting this article in full, Ginguene observes that everything Rousseau wrote was true at the time, but no longer is. The progress of the art and of opinion is such that what seemed to some as a type of blasphemy then is now out of date and irrelevant to present conditions.

Boye's L'Expression musicale

In contrast to Pascal Boyer's embrace of expression in music, this unknown Boye argues that music is incapable of expressing emotion, summarising his points as follows:
   ... le but principal de la Musique est de nous plaire physiquement.
   2. La Musique est susceptible de plusieurs caracteres. 3. La
   Musique peut etre analogue aux paroles, mais elle ne sauroit etre
   expressive. 4. Celle qui approche le plus de l'expression est la
   plus ennuyeuse. 5. Elle peut etre quelquefois memorative, mais non
   pittoresque. 6. La Musique dansante doit occuper le premier rang

   [... music's principal goal is to please us physically. 2. Music
   may have several characters. 3. Music can be analogous to the words
   but cannot be expressive. 4. Music that is the closest to
   expression [recitative] is the most boring. 5. Sometimes music can
   be evoking, but not pictorial. 6. Dance music should occupy the
   highest place].

Boye's agenda seems intended to incite controversy:
   Mais comme les passions ne se manifestent jamais en chantant,
   qu'elles ne s'expriment que par les inflexions de la voix parlante;
   il n'y a aussi que les inflexions de la voix parlante qui puissent
   les imiter, ainsi que dans la declamation.... En Musique, lorsqu'on
   execute une note quelconque; cette note est fixe & constamment la
   meme depuis l'instant qu'elle commence jusqu'a celui qui la
   termine. Par exemple, si l'on chante un sol, la voix restera sur le
   meme ton pendant toute la duree de ce sol. Il n'en est pas ainsi du
   langage ordinaire, ou les sons qu'on articule sont indetermines.
   Par exemple, lorsque vous dites un oui ou un non, votre voix
   s'echappe rapidement du point d'ou elle est partie, pour terminer
   ce oui ou ce non; tantot plus haut, tantot plus bas, selon le motif
   qui vous anime (22).

   [But since the passions never manifest themselves in singing and
   express themselves only by the inflections of the speaking voice,
   only the latter can imitate the passions, as in declamation....
   When executing any musical note whatever, this note is fixed and
   constantly the same from the instant it begins until it finishes.
   For example, if one sings a sol, the voice will stay on the same
   tone during all the duration of this sol. It differs from ordinary
   language, where the sounds articulated are indeterminate. Thus,
   when you speak a oui or a non, your voice rapidly escapes from its
   beginning point to terminate this oui or non--sometimes higher,
   sometimes lower, according to what is animating you].

Because the smallest musical interval is a semitone, continues Boye, a singing voice of two-octave range has only twenty-four semitones. In conversation, on the other hand, one makes quarters, eighths, sixteenths, twentieths of a tone, etc., so that the voice's range has 240 of these elements. From this, he concludes that the speaking voice has means at least ten times greater than the singing voice (23).

Boye's thesis prompted a vigorous rebuttal from the Journal encyclopedique. Noting that he readily grants the other arts the ability to express the passions, the reviewer quotes from his work to demonstrate that he rejects it in music, observing: "These are the algebraic disparities that our author calls the most complete demonstration of music's weakness with respect to imitation" (24). A fact unknown to Boye, and most of his contemporaries, is that the semitone is not a fixed size in pitch when performed (except by fixed-pitch instruments such as keyboards and harps), but is subject to an infinite number of microtonal variations. Writing pseudonymously, Diderot explained this principle of acoustics succinctly in the 1770s (25).

Boye is not surprised to see absurdity carried to the point of placing sleep, calm of night, solitude, and silence among the models of the claimed musical imitation, but is surprised by the pain Rousseau takes in his Dictionnaire de musique article ("Opera") in justifying similar chimeras: "While all nature sleeps, the one contemplating it slumbers not; the musician's art consists in substituting for the object's insensible image the movements its presence excites in the spectator's spirit. He does not present the object directly but awakens in our heart the same sentiment felt in seeing it". According to Boye, composers never intended what Rousseau supposes. "Even if it were true, it remains to be proved that the spectator who is put to sleep by nature sings or plays the violin. Isn't it easier to imagine that Rousseau was himself asleep when writing his remark?".
   Une chose qui me surprend, ce n'est pas de voir porter le ridicule
   jusqu'au point de placer le sommeil, le calme de la nuit, la
   solitude & le silence, parmi les modeles de la pretendue imitation
   musicale: mais c'est la peine que prend J. J. Rousseau pour tacher
   de justifier pareilles chimeres. Voici comment il s'explique dans
   l'article Opera de son Dictionnaire. 'Que toute la nature soit
   endormie, celui qui la contemple ne dort pas, & l'Art du Musicien
   consiste a substituer a l'image insensible de l'objet, celle des
   mouvemens que sa presence excite dans l'esprit du Spectateur: il ne
   represente pas directement la chose; mais il reveille dans notre
   ame le meme sentiment qu'on eprouve en la voyant.' Premierement, il
   suffit d'interroger les Compositeurs pour se convaincre qu'ils
   n'ont jamais eu le dessein que J. J. Rousseau leur suppose.
   Secondement, quand cela seroit, il resteroit a prouver que le
   Spectateur de la nature endormie, chante ou joue du violon.
   N'est-il pas plus facile d'imaginer que lorsque J. J. Rousseau a
   ecrit sa remarque, il etoit lui-meme endormi (26)?

To this, the Journal encyclopedique responded: "One must assuredly have a prodigious aversion for the arts to find J. J. Rousseau ridiculous here" (27).

According to Boye, the theatre (drama) is where true expression is to be found, and where he senses the musician's absurdities. Stop sharing them, he urges, make fun of his reveries. Grant music only some characters and leave the vast empire of expression to the declamatory art. He disputes musicians' claims that accompaniments should paint all the singers' circumstances, and that perfect imitations and striking tableaus are the product of cooperation between instrumental and vocal forces: "Eh! Messieurs, shouldn't you now feel that if the singing voice's inflections do not succeed in furthering your intentions, all the violins and basses in the world will succeed still less? Moreover, does the person who is moved seek accompanists? Or have an orchestra in his chest? Is the voice double, triple, or quadruple? Does one produce chords when speaking?"
   ... c'est-la [at the theatre], dis-je, que j'apprends a mieux
   sentir les ridicules du Musicien. Cessons enfin de les partager;
   mocquons-nous de ses reveries ... les Musiciens pretendent aussi
   ... que les accompagnemens doivent peindre toutes les situations du
   Chanteur; que c'est par le concours des moyens des instrumens, &
   ceux de la voix, qu'il resulte des imitations parfaites & des
   tableaux de la plus grande force. Eh! Messieurs, ne devez-vous pas
   sentir maintenant, que si les inflexions de la voix chantante
   reussissent mal a seconder vos intentions, tous les violons &
   toutes les basses possibles y reussiront encore moins. D'ailleurs,
   quiconque est affecte cherchet-il des Accompagnateurs? Ou bien
   a't'il une Orchestre dans sa poitrine? La voix est-elle double,
   triple, quadruple? Fait-on des accords lorsqu'on parle (28)?

Boye's brochure reveals that he himself is not a musician, but a literalist who denies music the capability of expression unless it duplicates exactly the speech of characters in a play. Thus a character's thoughts cannot be expressed by a chorus, and instrumental accompaniment is meaningless. He considers recitative to be the form most receptive to expression but admits that it is very dull. In stating these views, Boye not only distances himself from musicians, but also earlier intellectuals, such as Jean Le Rond d'Alembert and Francesco Algarotti, who valued musical expression and its ability to "paint" a tableau (29).

Boye prefers dance music, for none other can produce such grand effects. Disagreeing with those who consider this masterpiece from nature simplistic, he admires dancers who, transported by the intoxication of pleasure, flutter about in every way until their strength is exhausted. All this happens, he says, only through the magic of a rigaudon or a contredanse (30).

Perhaps dance music was appealing because contemporary reports suggest that it was the only French form for the stage in which a rhythmic beat could be discerned. In 1770, the Journal de musique quoted portions of d'Alembert's "De la liberte de la musique" (1759), citing its relevance to current conditions. Even in airs, singers did not convey a beat:

[d'Alembert:] We will say only a word about rhythm. Although it is an indispensable necessity in music, it is, however, not by rhythmic precision that our operas are distinguished. There, it is at every moment maimed.

[Journal de musique:] Most French singers have a strange view of rhythm. They claim that it is an obstacle to expression (31).

Observing that dance music is what "produces the most universal pleasure", Laborde does not know if Boye is completely wrong to put it above all others (his point probably being that without rhythm, music does not exist except as "psalmody", a term commonly used to describe the laborious pace of French opera). Claiming to have no knowledge of Boye's identity, Laborde agrees with him on some points, despite the many critiques that have been made against his book. Laborde grants music the ability to paint large elements such as joy, sadness, etc., but never metaphysical ideas such as repentance, remorse, suspicion, etc. Like Boye, he does not believe that Timothy aroused Alexander's furies with the Phrygian mode and calmed them with the Lydian one. In listing the six points of Boye's summary given above, Laborde is not entirely in accord with them, but finds it incontestable that only those to whom nature has given an ear of sensibility can decide if Boye is right or wrong (32). Perhaps Laborde knew Boye's identity and wished to retain good relations by granting him some measure of credibility.

A decade later, Louis-Francois Henri Lefebure (1754-1839), opposed these ideas from Boye's tract: 1) all the fine arts rest on the principle of imitation; 2) harmony is only an accessory of the musical art and its effects are of no account when compared to melody; and 3) melody is unable to convey an image (such as sleep, calm of night, solitude). On the contrary, says Lefebure, melody can express vividly the soul's torments, pleasures, and calm. In the literary arts, words convey ideas; when communicating feelings, music is the language (33).


Pascal Boyer's crisp reviews establish him as an early pioneer in modern journalistic music criticism. To be sure, men of letters had earlier made some of the same criticisms of music performance, but they wrote about execution in general, not specific performances. The effect of their criticism is difficult to measure. Since audiences clamoured for extreme volume from singers and could not distinguish good intonation from poor, it is likely that the carping in literary journals with their limited readership had little impact. However, when a knowledgeable professional musician began reviewing specific performances and citing individuals by name in a widely-read journal, the reverberations had to have been much greater.

With respect to authorship, Boyer's writing reveals a well-informed musician. In contrast, Boye's brochure conveys no technical knowledge of music. While Boye denies expressive capability to music, Pascal Boyer values expression. Thus, no resemblance exists between Boye's tract and Pascal Boyer's publications. With two individuals holding such different aesthetic positions, it would be appropriate to treat them separately as Pascal Boyer and the anonyme Boye.

Beverly Jerold's recent publications include: The Complexities of Early Instrumentation: Winds and Brass (Brepols, 2015); Music Performance Issues: 1600-1900 (Pendragon, 2016); "Performance Conditions, Standards and Bach's Chorus", The Musical Times (2017); "Zukunftsmusik/Music of the Future: A Moral Question" (2017) and "A Vindication of Ferdinand Hiller" (2018), Journal of Musicological Research; "Quantz and Agricola: A Literary Collaboration", Acta Musicologica (2016); "The appoggiatura breve in Domenico Scarlatti's Sonate", in The Early Keyboard Sonata in Italy and Beyond (Brepols, 2016); and further articles in Music Theory & Analysis (2015/2014); the Journal of Singing (2017); and Early Music (2014). She is also a practicing keyboard musician.

(1.) Julian Rushton/Manuel Couvreur, "Arnaud", in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (NO), 2d ed., ed. Stanley Sadie (London: Macmillan, 2001), 2:33.

(2.) Julian Rushton, "Boyer", NG, 4:165. Jean Gribenski [Henri-Andre Durand/Jean Gribenski], "Boyer", in Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG), 2d ed., ed. Ludwig Finscher (Kassel, Barenreiter, 2000), 603-5. This attribution can be found also in articles; for example, Robert M. Isherwood, "The Third War of the Musical Enlightenment", in Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 4 (1975): 223-245 at 240.

(3.) Jean-Benjamin de Laborde, Essai sur la musique (Paris, 1780), 3:594-99. Alexandre-Etienne Choron and Francois-Joseph Fayolle, Dictionnaire historique des musiciens (Paris, 1810/1811) based their entries for Boye and Boyer on Laborde's information.

(4.) Pascal Boyer, Lettre a M. Diderot, sur le projet de l'unite de clef dans la musique et la reforme des mesures, proposes par M. L'Abbe La Cassagne dans ses Elements du chant (Amsterdam and Paris, 1767), 55f.

(5.) See Beverly Jerold, "Maelzel's Role in Beethoven's Symphonic Metronome Marks", The Beethoven Journal 24, no. 1 (Summer 2009): 14-27.

(6.) Pascal Boyer, "Notices sur la vie & les ouvrages de Pergolese", Mercure de France (Paris, 2 July 1772): 192: "Les Italiens conviennent unanimement que personne ne l'a surpasse dans l'Expression musicale".

(7.) Pascal Boyer, "Observations sur l'orchestre de l'Opera", Journal de politique et de litterature (Paris, 5 and 17 September 1776/3): 53.

(8.) See Beverly Jerold, The Complexities of Early Instrumentation: Winds and Brass (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015).

(9.) Boyer, "Observations", 53.

(10.) Laborde, Essai, 3:596.

(11.) Beverly Jerold, "Who Wrote a 1769 Book That is Tied to the Paris Opera?", Recherches sur la musique francaise classique 31 (2004-2007): 187-97.

(12.) [Pascal Boyer], "France", Courrier de l'Europe (London, 3-6 June 1777): 35.

(13.) Ibid., (16-19 December 1777): 482.

(14.) Francois-Joseph Gossec, Memoire sur l'administration de l'Opera, sur les moyens d'en corriger les abus et d'en perfectionner l'ensemble, quoted by Constant Pierre, L'ecole de chant de l'Opera (1672-1807) (Paris: Tresse & Stock, 1895; reprint 1996), 18-22.

(15.) Francois-Louis d'Escherny, Melanges de litterature, d'histoire, de morale et de philosophie (Paris, 1811), 2:318f.

(16.) [Pascal Boyer], "France", Courrier de l'Europe (30 December 1777-2 January 1778): 2.

(17.) Ibid. (26 June 1778): 404.

(18.) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Briefe und Aufzeichnungen: Gesamtausgabe, ed. Wilhelm A. Bauer and Otto Erich Deutsch (Kassel: Barenreiter, 1962), 2:388.

(19.) See Gribenski, "Boyer", MGG, which contains the most complete biographical information available. A further detail is supplied by Emile Campardon, L'Academie royale de musique au XVIIIe siecle: documents inedits decouverts aux Archives nationales (Paris: Berger-Levrault, 1884; reprint 1971), 2:393, who cites Boyer as among the journal editors granted free admission to the Paris Opera in 1789-90.

(20.) Rousseau's article quoted by Pierre-Louis Ginguene, "Execution", in Encyclopedie methodique. Musique, ed. N. Framery and P.-L. Ginguene (Paris, 1791), 1:526f.

(21.) Boye, L'Expression musicale, mise au rang des chimeres (Amsterdam, 1779; reprint 1973), 39f.

(22.) Ibid., 5-8.

(23.) Ibid.

(24.) Review of Boye's L'Expression musicale: Journal encyclopedique (April 1779/3): 295-307 at 297: "Ce sont ces disparites algebriques que l'auteur appelle ... une demonstration la plus complette de l'impuissance musicale a l'egard de l'imitation".

(25.) See Beverly Jerold, "Diderot (Part II)--Temperament and Expressive Intonation", Music Theory & Analysis 2, no. 1 (2015): 69-93.

(26.) Boye, L'Expression, 22f.

(27.) Journal encyclopedique, 303.

(28.) Boye, L'Expression, 16f.

(29.) Jean Le Rond d'Alembert, "De la liberte de la musique", in Melanges de litterature, d'histoire et de philosophie, nouvelle ed. (Amsterdam, 1759), 4:455f. Francesco Algarotti, Saggio sopra l'opera in musica (Venice, 1755), 17.

(30.) Boye, L'Expression, 28.

(31.) Anonymous, "Examen d'un Ecrit de M. d'Alembert ...", Journal de Musique, ed. Nicolas Framery (Paris, 1770/10): 34: [d'Alembert] "Nous ne dirons qu'un mot de la mesure. Quoiqu'elle soit d'une necessite indispensable dans la Musique, ce n'est pourtant pas par l'exactitude de la mesure que nos Operas se distinguent. Elle y est a tout moment estropiee". [Journal de musique] "La plupart des Chanteurs Francais sont dans une plaisante opinion sur la mesure. Ils pretendent qu'elle nuit a l'expression".

(32.) Laborde, Essai, 3:594f.

(33.) Louis-Francois Henri Lefebure, Bevues, erreurs et meprises de differents auteurs celebres en matiere musicales (Paris, 1789; reprint 1973), 83ff.
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Author:Jerold, Beverly
Publication:Fontes Artis Musicae
Article Type:Biography
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Jul 1, 2018

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