Georgia Cowart. 2008. The Triumph of Pleasure: Louis XIV and the Politics of Spectacle. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Youell, Amber

The dichotomy between pleasure, frivolity, and spectacle and rationality, profundity, and seriousness has been a major framework for scholarly understanding of Western art music. Traditional narratives of music history lionize composers who appear to eschew superfluous ornament, extravagant showmanship, and dazzling virtuosity in favor of some more pure version of aesthetic truth. Genres designed for unabashed entertainment are often missing from Western art music histories, despite their significance in historical actuality. This is a serious omission not only for the sake of the historical record, but also because, as Georgia Cowart has demonstrated in her new book The Triumph of Pleasure: Louis XIV and the Politics of Spectacle, aural pleasure and compositional frivolity often disguise serious issues, and spectacle often communicates important messages that contradict the apparent message of accompanying text and discourse.


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August 18, 2022