minstrel: Lowest Common Denominator

Jennifer Friedman friedman at tznet.com
Mon Mar 20 13:53:16 PST 2000

Speaking of the lowest common denominator effect as concerns music in the
SCA...I have been pondering this myself.

Last weekend at a local moot in our Shire, after we concluded the business
meeting and the feasting, our Seneschal turned on her boom box so we could
have some music while we mended some of the loaner garb.  In seconds I
heard "In the Hall of the Mountain King" filling the room.  I went over and
checked the CD case and it was _Heavy Classics 2_.  Anguished, I grabbed
the seneschal's arm and said, "Please, could we listen to something else?
It's not that I don't like this music, but it's nowhere near period."  She
was amazed. "It's not?  But it's all classical music..."

I gave her a quick music history lesson (old does NOT mean pre-1600; the
classical period in music was 1750-1825, and Grieg lived 1843-1907).  She
was suprised to hear this and changed the CD to one of those
medieval-music-with-bird-and-waterfall-sounds recordings, which aren't
usually authentic performances (or period tunes) but at least don't ruin
the mood for me.

The thing was, after I did this, I felt awful.  I felt I had taken one
small, narrow area of expertise of mine (music) and rammed it at someone
who, in dozens of ways, is my better and my superior, destroying her
enjoyment of something (maybe even of the whole afternoon).  This is
someone I respect and love as a friend (I even wrote a song for her).  It
almost made me feel worse that she was so nice about it.

The truth is, many SCA folk really DON'T have a clear, or even a fuzzy,
idea of what belongs pre-1600 and what belongs after.  These are usually
people who have more enthusiasm than education, but sometimes they are just
unclear on a certain aspect of SCA period that doesn't interest them as
much as others (music, food, garb, armor, blacksmithing...whatever).  Thus
they make extremely wrong assumptions, not knowing enough to question
whether what they've done/said is authentic to SCA period.  It's normal,
it's a fact...now how do we deal with it?

Yes, listening to Heavy Classics made me completely nuts, but no one else
in the room cared, and probably only a few others would have been able to
place "In the Hall of the Mountain King" out-of-period.  I don't think it
would have killed me to put up with it for an hour or so, for the sake of
maintaining peace.  I am still wondering if she was inwardly hurt that I
flew at her like that.  AND YET...if I hadn't told her, would she have
arranged to have something from Heavy Classics played as a processional for
the Prince and Princess at some local event in the future?  Should I have
shut my mouth when I had information that might have helped her understand
SCA period better and thus have more fun in the Society?


Okay, heart unburdened.  Tell me what I should have done.

Lady Eliane Halevy of Falcon's Keep       Jennifer Friedman
Chronicler, Shire of Falcon's Keep        823 W. 17th St.
Principality of the Northshield           Marshfield, WI 54449
Middle Kingdom                            (715) 389-9194
                    friedman at tznet.com

"Tant que vivray, en age florissant/Je servirai le dieu
d'amour puissant/En faits, en dits, en chansons et accords."
(As long as I live in this flourishing age/I will serve the 
all-powerful god of Love/In word and deed, in song and harmony.)
--Claudin de Sermisy

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