In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Ballet Music

  • Introduction
  • Select Historic Treatises
  • Select Bibliographies, Inventories, Scores
  • Analysis and Theoretical Frameworks
  • Court Ballet Music from the 17th and 18th Centuries

Music Ballet Music
Matilda Ann Butkas Ertz
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 October 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0300


Research on ballet music has seen steady growth in recent decades within the field of musicology and in interdisciplinary work of dance scholars and historians. This bibliography focuses on studies of the music for ballet, defined here as beginning with the origins of ballet in the courts of Catherine de Medici and Louis XIV and continuing to contemporary ballet. Ballet music scholarship has included discussions of style, historical context, collaborative processes, theoretical analyses of the music, the music-dance relationship (choreomusicology), placement in the career and style of a composer, interpretation, reception, and more. Scholars looking to embark on the study of ballet music will find many excellent models in the sources included, and should see that in this work, researchers have consulted diverse sources, both primary and secondary, from various fields of study. This requires a level of competence often beyond the fields of music or dance themselves, in the quest to account for the deeply ephemeral and multifaceted nature of music-dance happenings. Yet one of the biggest hurdles in ballet music studies is that of addressing dance on an equal footing with music (and vice versa in dance studies). This bibliography privileges works that have successfully engaged in such interdisciplinary work as well as studies that are grounded in a historical context. The following criteria guided the selection of works cited. Research was excluded that does not directly address music. This means that much essential historical-contextual study has not been included. Also excluded are treatises that do not deal directly with the music for ballet. Sources were omitted that concern dance music styles that are allied to ballet but diverge from ballet as strictly defined. For example, many fine studies of music for modern choreography are excluded, even if these works were called “ballets” (undeniably, there is much gray area here). Other exclusions are not because the research was deemed unimportant, but rather due to practicality: the work could not be properly vetted, was not widely available, overlapped too much with an included item, was either too dated or too new, or simply due to limitations of space. Indeed, ballet music scholarship is increasingly global, reflecting a global art. Admittedly, this bibliography skews to English, French, Italian, and German language sources. What follows is a selection of exemplary works that have established ballet music study historically and currently represent a thriving area of interdisciplinary scholarship. Note that the terms choreographer and composer are used throughout for clarity, even if the terms were not in use during the period in question; in addition, when a specific ballet is mentioned it will often be followed, where applicable, by a parenthetical citation consisting of “(choreographer/composer, premier year).”

Reference Works and General Studies

The two sections included here contain, first, some of the main reference works for ballet music scholars, and second, examples of the first books to entertain ballet music as a subject. While the top dance and music reference encyclopedias might seem obvious to include, the extent of scholarly work in these sources should be emphasized. The International Encyclopedia of Dance and Oxford Music Online are truly a starting point, standing together as representative of the dance and music disciplines, respectively. The other databases and inventories included here gather dance and music scholarship under both wide and specific umbrellas. The first general studies selected for inclusion serve as a reference and are important to the historiographic formation of ballet-music repertories and scholarship.

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