Symbolically, music was an important element of elite identity in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France. Musical skill was a privilege that denoted fortune enough to pay an instructor as well as time in which to engage in the pursuit of such leisure. As proper deportment allowed one to wear a fashionable gown or suit with ease and grace, successful musical performance indicated bodily control and order. Colonial consumers in New France replicated these metropolitan values. The upper echelons of colonial society enjoyed balls, concerts, and theatrical performances marked by a variety of musical instruments. The grandest such events took place at sites such as the château Saint-Louis and the intendant's palace. As the administrative, military, and spiritual capitals of New France, it is appropriate that Québec also played host to important cultural events, including those of a musical nature.
A connoisseur of baroque music, Dupuy owned copies of works by the very best French and Italian composers. These are listed along with the several hundred volumes of books in his library. The 1726 floorplan of the palace shows that an actual room was used as a library. Unlike Philippe de Rigaud, Dupuy also owned an impressive collection of musical instruments. The governor's probate inventories curiously list no musical instruments or sheet music. His successor and Dupuy's sworn enemy, the marquis de Beaharnois, is known to have held elaborate social gatherings at the château. No list of Beauharnois' furnishings in Canada is known to exist, and perhaps the governors hired musicians to play for these events.
Judging from his inventory, Dupuy was a fan of one of most important- and one of my favorite- French baroque composers of the seventeenth century: Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687). This Florentine-born musician came into the Louis XIV's service in the 1650s, remaining until his death from infection after piercing his foot with his director's staff during a performance (what a way to go). The first French-style operas were composed by Lully, and the intendant owned copies of every one of his operas in addition to several psalms set to music. Lully's work set the tone for contemporary French composers and others through the early eighteenth century. He was, for all intents and purposes, a rock star.
Marin Marais was another prolific French composer of the late baroque era who also held royal appointments at Versailles. His most famous pieces are those for the viol; Marais'
first book of viol music was published in 1686, and four more followed into the 1720s. Dupuy owned "Deux Basses de Violle Angloises avec leurs Etuys et archets" ("Two English Viols with their Cases and bows") in 1728; his probate inventory from 1738 also includes viols, indicating a possible preference for the instrument. It is likely that he played, the viol being a popular instrument for men and even some women.
Below are samples of two works by Marin Marais. The second video is from one of my fave movies, Tous les matins du monde, a biopic of the composer, and features Marin Marais' reworking of the traditional folia. It's always fun to see an instrument in action!
The composer Clérambault composed for the organ, which figured in both sacred and secular music of the period. Below is a secular tune by the composer played on an organ that might have been familiar to Dupuy.