Colloquium: Nathan Martin, “Two Interesting Examples from Rameau’s Code de musique pratique”
Rameau’s final treatise, the Code de musique pratique (1760), represents, in Erwin Jacobi’s phrase, a summa of the composer’s music-theoretical accomplishments. Yet the Code has attracted far less attention from historians of theory than Rameau’s earlier writings. One reason may be the profusion of its musical examples, which frankly overwhelm the treatise’s discursive text. This curious figure–ground reversal, however, invites a kind of lecture à rebours that takes the examples not as a paratext illuminating the treatise’s prose but rather as the principal text in themselves, while demoting the former to the status of an ancillary commentary. The Code thus invites a rather different mode of reading that Rameau’s other treatises. I sketch the outlines of that approach using two particularly intriguing examples from the work’s treatise on accompaniment.