The music at the royal court under Louis 16th - The website of automatons, automata and androids.

1/ Film extract : 56K or 512 K (with Windows Media Player)
(Introduction of the female musician android which plays 8 different baroque tunes)

2/ Film extract : 56K or 512 K (with Windows Media Player)
(The secrets of the female musician automaton by the jaquet-Droz family)

These extracts are coming from the film "The Jaquet-Droz androids".
This film and many others are available in english version on our online shop.

The three androids at the royal court under Louis 16th - The website of automatons, automata and androids.
The three androids at the royal court under Louis 16th
Olivier ROUX, a specialist in mechanical music expresses his opinion about the different Baroque music tunes performed by the female musician: "The first time you have heard the repertory of the female musician, you have two contrary feelings. One is a feeling of stylistic homogeneity, even monotony which is surely due to the unique tone of the instrument without an expression system (created later) and to its short sound set like most mechanical music instruments with a low tone, that is

24 notes, 12 for the left hand (accompaniement) and 12 for the right hand (singing).

When you listen more carefully, you can hear a real variety of forms, though each "work" is built according to the principle of accompanied one-tone song. Could it be a kind of collective game where five happy pals would have joined to make this common instrument with various aspects ?

The female musician reads the scores - The website of automatons, automata and androids.
The female musician reads the scores
Photo by Jean-J. Luder

Then you think about what was called at that time the "garland", a kind of collective litterature, equally adopted in musics.

It is eventually more reasonable to think that the unique genuine author was Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz. He was influenced by French and Italian music after he was learned in musics at the age of fifteen in Nancy in 1767.

Amateur musician, Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz had however a solid musical background. By 1774, his father wrote : "Henri-Louis is in London, where he composes operas..."

It is finally known that his goods inventory included a forte piano, an alto, a cello and a violin.

But let us listen at once to the young interpreter. With the kind authorization of Scriptar Music we can listen to the following five tunes of Baroque music performed by the restored automaton and recorded on a single in 1978:

Baroque music tune n°1 / Baroque music tune n°2 / Baroque music tune n°3 / Baroque music tune n°4 / Baroque music tune n°5.

These same tunes are also performed by Catherine Caumont, a harpsichordist. The first two tunes can be heard on a Gaveau small harpsichord which is a copy of a 1912 Dolmetsch instrument, then the three other tunes are played on a Polymood Keyboard synthetizer.

Baroque music tune n°1 / Baroque music tune n°2 / Baroque music tune n°3 / Baroque music tune n°4 / Baroque music tune n°5.

"Is the female musician a genuine musician?" Yes, it is for two reasons: firstly, due to its visible aspect for it really "touches" an organ keyboard with its hands, which is a rare skill for an automaton. Secondly, it faithfully transmits the older style set, which is obviously essential to us.

The female musician certainly belongs to mechanical instruments (organ or flute) but its functions (more complex than the former mechanical instruments) do not prevent it to reach the same clear striking up and swiftness of less complex musical instruments, such as the singing bird.

No wonder that the female musician "sings" so cheerfully, for it includes a minimum of mechanical transmission (three only), which restricts the play and does not require inertia.

In other words, this kind of instrument, allows a very small possible gap
The fingers really press the keys - The website of automatons, automata and androids.
The fingers really press the keys
Photo by Jean-J. Luder

between the "reading"of the tunes and their playing.

On the contrary, the musician present a number of seven shifts between the cylinder and the sound, which implies an important release

(3/10 at each shift) and inertia, if we consider the space between the reading keys and the pins generating the sound, which results in the difficult setting of this wonderful mechanism".

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