Proof: French music did not resist foreign influence

From Science Daily:

Together with colleagues from London and Amsterdam, MIB postdoc Niels Chr. Hansen, analysed thousands of musical themes composed by French, Italian, and Austro-German composers living in 1600-1950.

During these years, rhythmic variability in French music was initially low — just like in Italian music and language. Later on, it increased towards the natural equilibrium for Austro-German music and language before the rhythms of French music finally diverged into two separate stylistic schools of composition.

Niels Chr. Hansen’s research provides the first quantitative test of key assumptions in historical musicology regarding national influences on European. Specifically, the findings support that (North-)Italian music culture dominated Europe throughout the Baroque Era, followed by increasing influence from Austria and Germany in the Classical Era. In the (National-)Romantic Era, European music culture became more decentralised. The analysis also disproves recurring claims that French composers stubbornly resist foreign influence.


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  • “Rhythmic variability in French music was initially low”…

    What complete bogus! Maybe rhythmic variability in written scores was low, but in execution it was, at least in French baroque music, extremely varied through the addition of ornaments, embellishments and diminutions. Not to mention inégalité, which per definition is impossible to put down in musical notation and makes it very difficult, as Couperin states, for foreign performers to play French music as it should. Much of this French style has influenced other European composers, which of course doesn’t mean that French composers were unfamiliar with or not influenced by other styles.

    But hey, as long as we can do some French-bashing…

  • “The analysis also disproves recurring claims that French composers stubbornly resist foreign influence.” I always thought that the ongoing discussion in France since the 17th century about ‘foreign influences’ in music was fuelled by the continuous influences from abroad which seemed to provoke inferiority complexes. Italian and German in the 18C, much German in the 19C in the 2nd half of which an overwhelming influence of Wagner (with deep inroads in poetry and literature), and Russian and Far Eastern around 1900.

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