marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,
marycatelli
marycatelli

always amateur hour

The first guy who seriously composed for the string quartet was Joseph Haydn.  His employer, a man who could hire a composer and an orchestra, nevertheless wanted a piece of music specific to the four instrument that he and his three guests played.

Which is another thing hard to convey.  Before mass media, people were seriously expected to be able to entertain themselves.  To pass the harp about the mead hall and sing.  To tell fairy tales.  To act in May Day plays about Robin Hood or else about Maid Marian.  Sometimes, to read aloud -- mostly after the advent of cheap paper and the printing press, of course, but medieval manuscripts frequently show ladies with their maidens, and one of them is reading from one of those romances.

Which is not to say there was no need for professionals.  There was need for lots of professionals.  Only books were exempt from the rule that everything had to be performed live, and books were often rare.  Which meant even the king would have to have a good number of them, because they would grow tired, get ill, etc.  (Courtiers and even the royal family would fill the gap, sometimes; royals routinely appeared in Rennaissance masques.)  The playhouse or the opera house would need to rehearse, get scenery, and stage a new work.  And if you weren't at court, you had whatever traveling minstrel came by, or of course, your own playhouse and opera house with its own actors and singers.  Now that these things can be reproduced, you get a winner-take-all, where often enough everyone watches the opera on the TV put on by the big opera company.

Writers who forget this can write some very silly stuff sometimes.  Famous minstrels would not dominate the way that a pop singer can.  And would be past their time and gone when they started to fail.  And I once read a story claiming that a (thinly veiled and hostilely portrayed) Church was trying to control the list of permitted songs.  A girl was warned about the dangers of her parodies.  Songs and stories mutated all over the place.  (The book also had the approved song list being actual medieval songs -- and ones the Church disapproved of in real life, btw, for their glamorization of courtly love -- and the free spirits singing more modern songs.  But that's a different fault.)
Tags: the past is a different country, world-building: nobility, world-building: other, world-building: royalty, world-building: social classes, world-building: technology
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