minstrel: My search for a period-looking guitar is over!

Brian L. Rygg or Laura Barbee-Rygg rygbee at montana.com
Sun Mar 19 23:31:15 PST 2000

www.altemusik.net <thomas at altemusik.net> said, in part:

> Making medieval music we should use the right instruments and if we cannot
> and we put knowingly some "wrong" instruments we have the duty to tell
> our audience. I accept Lady Arabellas German Lute in a medieval content as
> long as she is telling everybody that this instrument is not medieval. I
> will get very angry if she does not. Sorry Milady!!!
> Making medieval music we also should use the right music and the right
> words. Singing modern contrafactures without telling the audience is as
> ridiculous as most of the Hollywood-pictures with medieval themes and
> lies.

One thing to remember is that, by and large, the SCA is not a formal
classroom.  If someone presumes that everything you see/hear at an SCA event
is period unless explicitly stated otherwise, well, that person would be

For one thing, we aren't putting on a show, much less claiming to be a fully
accurate, or even accurate-as-humanly-possible, show.  We're a participatory
group, and don't have stringent requirements to take part.   There will
always be among us folk who haven't learned as much as others have, and folk
who choose not to put as much energy and effort into being period as others
do.  That's fine.  Even if you take a strict interpretation of the Society's
educational-organization status, you have to accept that there's a learning
curve.  There are others who see the SCA as just a way of having fun, a
grand game of make-believe.  And I for one believe the Society teaches best
when the lessons slip in sideways,  *because*  we're having fun.

There  *is*  a lot of education in the SCA, some of it in collegia or other
such class settings, much of it between events (doing the research and
preparatory work on period clothing, foods, poetry, etc.; this mailing list
and the rec.org.sca newsgroup fall at least partly in that category) or at
events in two-person or small-group discussions.  And much of the reason for
the research -- which some do very little of, some do much more of -- goes
toward evoking a period "feel" at the event.  Some people (I'm not among
them) report being able to forget for a time that they really aren't
such-&-such a person living back in the Middle Ages or Renaissance.

Yes, glaringly modern tunes or instruments can disrupt that magical
feeling -- but they aren't the only thing.  (And at least they leave the
option of pretending that the modern [whatever] is just a new or foreign one
the person never before witnessed.)  It is  *more*  jarring, I submit, for a
minstrel to get up to provide some entertainment at the night's feast . . .
and preface the performance with a description of how it will not actually
be period because the instrument wasn't invented until 1673, and the words
are a modern English translation of the 1300s French.  Yuck.  Please, please
_don't_  do that to people!

Certainly, if someone asks you (quietly, as such a question should be asked)
afterward whether the instrument is period, tell them the truth -- or else
flatly refuse to understand the question until the event closes, since it
isn't one that could possibly have been asked in period.  (Myself, if you
ask, I'll tell you what I know.)  But don't disrupt the performance, the
ambience, with a public apology (or a history lesson) from a  modern

NOTE:  The foregoing is in regards to being a  *part*  -- a participant --
of regular events.  I hope it is obvious that you  *should*  be explaining
deviations from period when teaching a class (that and other discussions of
differences between now and then are why it can be harder to stay in persona
at a collegium), or presenting a work for judging at an Arts & Sciences
competition (though in the latter case, if the performance is for a general
audience in addition to the judges, I would still recommend leaving such
proclamaitons solely within the written documentation that is provided for
judges -- others can also look it up if they want, but the rest don't need
to have their enjoyment interrupted).

Brendan Pilgrim                       poet, rogue, scholar, and foole
http://come.to/your.pilgrim       rygbee(at)montana(dot)com
          Cognitio et Cogitatio Vitae Pennas Dant
Or, a winged elephant segreant counter-ermine winged azure, tusked argent
imbrued, bearing in its trunk a garden rosebud gules, stemmed and leaved

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