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Jean Philippe Rameau

Rameau, Jean Philippe (zhäN fēlēpˈ rämōˈ) [key], 1683–1764, French composer and theorist. He was organist at the cathedral in Clermont and at Notre Dame de Dijon. In the early part of his career his wrote two treatises on harmony (1722, 1726) in which he introduced the important and influential theory of chord inversion. He revolutionized music theory by his contention that harmony derives from the acoustical harmonics present in a vibrating string or tube. His first opera was Hippolyte et Aricie (1733), and it was followed by more than 30 stage works, including the dramatic ballet Les Indes galantes (1735) and his best opera, Castor et Pollux (1737). Rameau's career was marked by controversies; at first he was attacked for his Italianate departure from the classical style of Lully, and later he was criticized for his old-fashioned French style. His harpsichord works and chamber music are brilliant examples of the elegant rococo style of the mid-18th cent.

See his Treatise on Harmony (tr. 1971); study by C. Girdlestone (1957, rev. ed. 1969).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.