The Recueils d’airs sérieux et à boire de différents autheurs (“RASB”) published by Christophe Ballard represent the major source in which airs sérieux are preserved. The cultural elite sang from these publications in the salon, and in so doing, participated in a highly codified form of communication within society. Ballard, on the other hand, was running a business and his commercial strategies favoured the publication of those airs which would guarantee the sale of the highest number of copies. The enduring commercial success of the RASB indicates that Ballard’s editorial choices were reflective of the tastes of the avid and elite music-public, and successful predictors of the next day’s fashion.
This study proposes to make a detailed musico-poetic analysis of the airs sérieux contained within the RASB between the years 1695 and 1715 and to explore the social function and performance context of this particular corpus in order to enrich the approach to performance practice.