The thesis sets Rousseau's philosophy of music and aesthetic of opera against the wider philosophical backcloth of eighteenth-centuryF rance and in contraposition to the more scopic music-theoredcabl ackdrop,o f which Rameau'sw ritings are takena s a paradigm. The first half of the thesis contends that the philosophy of music is fashioned upon a trinary model which mirrors the philosophy of nature and history. The first sector is an ideal, hypothetical state; the second (the 'fall) is the moment when the ideal state is ruptured, when societal and cultural institutions - and history - commence; the third, is the 'actual state', the culmination of the process of history. It is argued that relativism is at work between the second and third sectorsa nd Rousseaua ssignsa rigorous systemo f value to the processo f history and all points alongi t, the processi tself, taken as a whole, is seena s a degeneratives lide awayf rom nearperfection to imperfection. 7111sce condh alf of the thesis explores the ramifications of the trinary model and the effect the degenerativep rocessh as upon the voice, music and opera. The voice is consideredt he unique phenomenon that connects all sectors of the trinary structure: though objectified and endowed with an ontology, it is not immune to the degenerativep rocess. At the fall-state,t he voice begins to rupture and two entities - melody and language - gradually emerge. Over time, melody and speech are forced further apart until neither bears much resemblance to the other. With the invention of harmony, melody degeneratesh: armony begins to overshadowm elody, until in the eighteenthc entury- consummatedin the music and theoreticalp ostulationso f Rameau- melody is subjugated and subsumed entirely within the harmonic domain of musical production. The impact upon opera is more complex and the concluding chapters explore the radical and largely reform-driven aesthetico f opera. Roussea&sf inal dramaticw ork Py gmalion(1 762)i s considered not simply as an outcome of this aesthetic, but as an embodiment of the philosophy of music itself; the animateds tatuee nunciatesR ousseau'sv ision of the origin of human expression.

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