The 37 spiritual canticles constituting the collection by Charles de Courbes were published in 1622 by the music printer of Louis XIII, Pierre Ballard. They are varied polyphonies, covering all the aspects of the religious singing known at this time in France. The then very neutral term of canticle rightly applies to all these compositions by its very indetermination.
Charles de Courbes wrote his Cantiques spirituels more as a collection of mélanges than a publication refering to a precise context. The character of each piece is stylistically sampled as if the composer intended to offer a succession of compositions built on diversiﬁed writing principles. It cannot be assimilated either to some heteroclite gathering of pieces coming from other more coherent collections: it is very much rooted in its time (see the collection title: Cantiques spirituels nouvellement mis en musique – “Spiritual Canticles recently set in music”); the layout and the construction process of the pieces are echoeing the events of this year 1622. The interpretation can gain a certain freedom thanks to this global literary dimension, in so far as, not one piece, not even the songs directly inspired by the liturgy, is truly the reﬂection of a pre-existing functional context.
See also the book Cantiques spirituels published by Marc Desmet.