The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

O quelle armonye: dialogue singing in late renaissance France

Brooks, Jeanice (2003) O quelle armonye: dialogue singing in late renaissance France Early Music History, 22, pp. 1-65. (doi:10.1017/S0261127903003012).

Record type: Article


François de Billon’s Fort inexpugnable de l’honneur du sexe feminin (1555) was among the most extensive contributions to the sixteenth-century polemic on the nature of women known as the querelle des femmes. In keeping with the military connotations of its title, Billon’s ‘impregnable fortress’ is an exercise in bellicose rhetoric; his sallies are illustrated with woodcuts of roaring lions and fire-spitting cannons to heighten the effect of bravado. In the section on women’s musical gifts, he vaunts the ‘angelic sweetness’ of the female singing voice, and claims that although male musicians more often win fame, women have always been better singers:
In [singing] nevertheless women have always been the very best. Whatever may be said by Sandrin, Arcadelt or Janequin, the most renowned musicians of Europe in our time, whom I would willingly ask, ‘Where is it that one can find sweetness of vocal harmony, in general, if not in the musical throat of Woman, even if she puts forth only a little warbling?’ And if they answered that in some men one finds more, could I not rightly reply, ‘What is the reason, my friends, that so few men of your profession are married and that you all flee marriage, if not that through propriety [honnesteté] you would be forced to bring your wives (instead of choirboys) into princely chambers to sing with you, or without you, which would be found so much sweeter than any childish voice? O what harmony, if you were all married in the normal fashion to beautiful women; if they were well instructed by you in the rules of music; and if in the aforementioned manner, you tuned yourselves well with them. The pleasure of listening to you would be double, the advantage triple, and thus, frequently nothing would be sung except in duo’.

Full text not available from this repository.

More information

Published date: 2003


Local EPrints ID: 12368
ISSN: 1474-0559
PURE UUID: 6225d033-4955-42ac-b263-6aa6dfe25ff8

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 12 Oct 2005
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 17:03

Export record


Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton:

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.