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Louis-Joseph Marchand's A treatise on Simple Counterpoint or Singing on the Book (1739)

Created in collaboration with Early Music Sources

Louis-Joseph Marchand’s 1739 Traité du contrepoint simple ou chant sur le livre documents the continuation of a centuries-old tradition of improvised liturgical singing, one which remained part of French choral practice throughout the eighteenth century. An essentially practical work, the treatise aims to provide the reader with the tools required for singing counterpoint extempore, a skill that was claimed to be ‘necessary for all those who aspire to enter into the music of the majority of cathedrals and colleges, both in France, Flanders, and elsewhere.’ The aim of this translation is partly to facilitate academic engagement with this rich tradition of liturgical music-making, but also to aid in the continued practical revival of historical traditions of improvisation in both modern performance and pedagogy.