What is Enlightenment? Discussion how the notions of enlightenment or Enlightenment ideals are conveyed in 18th century music.
The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement that applied reason to issues of emotions, social relations, and politics. Beliefs of the Enlightenment were individual rights, naturalness, universal education and social equality. A movement in 18th-century thought dedicated to raising the level of general education, and by placing human improvement above concern with the supernatural. The movement’s origins are placed in English empiricism, French rationalism and French skepticism.
Social roles for music were providing public concerts and private teaching with musicians. The middle class's increased interest in learning and the arts affected writers and artists. The public concert was largely an 18th-century invention. Increasingly large theatres were built to accommodate an increasing public for spectacles and concerts. Production of musical instruments, especially keyboard instruments, reached levels that had not been approached since the 16th century. The immense output of songs with simple accompaniments or no accompaniment at all was destined for amateur circles; so were the unending volumes of keyboard arrangements devoted to operas, oratorios and other concerted music. A large repertoire of music was composed for amateur musicians to perform at home
Magazines devoted to music began to appear in midcentury. Around in 1776-89, the first universal histories of music were written by Charles Burney, John Hawkins and Johann Nicolaus Forkel. Various musical styles coexisted, including the traditional Baroque style and newer styles, galant, empfindsamer Stil and classical. There were general ideas that composers follow: contrapuntal complexity should be avoided, music should be natural and immediately pleasing. Also melodies should contain short phrase, have simple accompaniments and the language of music should be international.
Concern for humanity led to increased interest in and respect for other cultures and religions matters became an important characteristic of the age. The greatest works of Mozart may be considered not only ‘Classical’ but enlightened. The symbolic role that light assumes in Die Zauberflöte (1791), singspiel in two acts by W.A. Mozart to a libretto by E. Schikaneder, has its parallel in the resounding expresses peaceful confidence in a man-centered and divinely blessed universe.
The Queen of the Night represents a danger according to the anti-Masonic Empress Theresa. Her enemy Sarastro symbolizes the enlightened sovereign who ruled according to principles based on reason, wisdom, and nature. The story itself portrays the education of mankind, progressing from chaos through religious superstition to rationalistic enlightenment, by means of Tamino and Papageno, ultimately to make "the Earth a heavenly kingdom, and mortals like the gods.
There was a more general interest that found expression in art, literature, and philosophy, during the Enlightenment in Eastern civilizations. The fad is reflected in several works by Mozart and Gluck. Static harmonies don’t change when the melody seems to require it.
Gluck synthesized the comic and serious, both French and Italian, in reconstituting music drama along simpler, more elementally human lines, beginning with Orfeo ed Euridice (1762), azione teatrale per musica in three acts by Ch.W. Gluck to libretto by Calzibigi based on mythological legend.
Orfeo is considered Gluck’s first “reform opera” and Gluck’s textual and musical reforms reflect certain beliefs of the Enlightenment, especially his championing of the reasonable and the natural.
In France, late 18th century attitudes toward the church and church music were conditioned by political developments and by the philosophers and the general mood of the Enlightenment.
Downs, Philip. Classical Music. New York: Norton and Company, 1992.
Pauly, Reinhard. Music in The Classic Period. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc, 2000.
Prestelli, Giorgio. The Age of Mozart and Beethoven. Great Britain: Athenaeum Press Ltd, 1984.
Rice, John. Music in The Eighteenth Century. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2013.