Another train tune

Saturday, 23 March, 2013

The brilliant American harpsichordist Scott Ross, who died tragically young of AIDS in 1989, likened Les Barricades Mystérieuses, a 1717 composition by François Couperin, to a train in that it conveys the the image of a heavy, fast-moving object that keeps picking up momentum. And the the mysterious barricades of the title are objects that cause the “train” to slow down and then stop.

François Couperin, whose title was ordinaire de la musique de la chambre du Roi, was certainly not thinking of trains when he wrote this baroque piece for the harpsichord, but he loved to create layers of music and his barricades can be seen as a precursor of the dense, layered, reverberant “Wall of Sound” that Phil Spector engineered in the 1960s.

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