In the film "Marie Antoinette" there is a scene at roughly 1h35mn where a friend or lover plays the clavecin. We can see his face close up for a few seconds when he plays.

Then a woman standing nearby at the door replies to some man: "He amuses her and she likes to be amused..."

What is this piece of music ?

I could not find it in the film soundtrack.

  • is there a video on youtube or similar where we can her the tune ? Otherwise the question will be hard to answer.
    – Angst
    Dec 20 '19 at 22:14
  • 1
    So, you're definite it's not Couperin's "Les Barricades Mystérieuses" or the Scarlatti sonata in d minor
    – Angst
    Dec 21 '19 at 14:25
  • I'm sorry but I don't know. I think only someone who has the dvd could know that.
    – Stephane
    Dec 21 '19 at 17:13
  • @angst It was Les barricades mystérieuses ! Big thank you !
    – Stephane
    Dec 21 '19 at 17:15

It seems the piece is Couperin's "Les Barricades Mystérieuses" .

The piece itself has a whole wikipedia article, from which this information :

The piece has been used as a source of inspiration by many others across different artistic fields including music, visual arts and literature. Some have simply used the title while others have created new works inspired by the original

See wiki article for list of these which would make the answer too long.

Some interesting thoughts on the title and meaning of the piece, which I quote from the wiki article again:

Les Barricades Mystérieuses was originally published with the spelling Les Baricades Mistérieuses ["single r" in the first word, and "i" rather than "y" in the second word]. All four possible spelling combinations have since been used with "double r" and a "y" being the most common. There has been much speculation on the meaning of the phrase "mysterious barricades" with no direct evidence available to back up any theory.Nevertheless, of those that link the title to features of the music itself, Evnine believes harpsichordist Luke Arnason's is the most plausible:

"The title Les Barricades Mystérieuses is probably meant to be evocative rather than a reference to a specific object, musical or otherwise. Scott Ross, in a master class filmed and distributed by Harmonia Mundi, likens the piece to a train. This clearly cannot have been the precise image Couperin was trying to convey, but it is easy to hear in Les Barricades the image of a heavy but fast-moving object that picks up momentum. In that sense, the mysterious barricades are perhaps those which cause the "train" to slow down and sometimes stop... This hypothesis seems to fit in with the pedagogical aims of Couperin's music, since the composer presents himself as something of a specialist in building sound through legato, style luthé playing...Moreover, it seems to form a set with the following piece, Les Bergeries. This latter piece, though more melodic than Les Barricades, set in a higher register and more bucolic in feeling, is also an exercise in using a repetitive motif (in this case a left hand ostinato evocative of the musette) to build sound without seeming mechanical or repetitive. Both Les Barricades Mystérieuses and Les Bergeries, then, are exercises in building (and relaxing) sound and momentum elegantly.

While the title reflects the musical structure, there may be more at play. The suggestion of barricades is "a double entendre referring simultaneously to feminine virginity and the suspensions [of] harmonic [progressions] of the music, [whose] lute figurations [from the style brisé] are imitated to produce an enigmatic stalemate", as Judith Robison Kipnis explained the work's title and its interpretation by her husband Igor Kipnis.

Other suggested meanings for the title include:

  • impeding communication between people
  • between past and present or present and future
  • between life and death
  • between the immanent and transcendent
  • women's underwear, or chastity belts
  • allegedly a common way of referring to women's eyelashes among the Salonnière of the 17th century
  • masks worn by performers of Le Mystère ou les Fêtes de l'Inconnu (The Mysterious One or the Celebrations of the Unknown One) staged by one of Couperin's patrons, the Duchesse du Maine in 1714
  • a "technical joke...the continuous suspensions in the lute style being a barricade to the basic harmony".

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