minstrel: filk/period music/cut off date/what were we talking about? ;-)
EoganOg at aol.com
EoganOg at aol.com
Thu Mar 23 20:18:05 PST 2000
When questioning such things as authenticity and cut off dates and
appropriateness of filk, etc., I tend to consider several factors. I'll
explain it as I explain it to newcomers and new bards who ask, worried about
what they might do that will be 'acceptable' at events.
Just as in any mundane type of performing, one must consider the audience.
In the case of the SCA, your average audience at a bardic circle will be
those at an event, who want to be transported back to the Middle Ages (at
least in their minds for the night). These people will not normally have
much understanding of period music, period languages, or period instruments
(yes, some will, but you can't count on this). Therefore my goal as a
performer is to help create for them an atmosphere that will add to their
The easiest way for me to do this is in a narrative-type song. I am a singer
primarily, and a musician only rarely, so a lot of this is specific to what I
do. But I find a lot of SCA performers focus on the voice, so this is
relevant. Since my emphasis is on the story, and I want my listeners to
understand the story, I'm limited to modern, or early modern English, unless
I want to do some hefty translating jobs. (Yes, I have a couple of
non-English and early English pieces in my repitior, but I am generalizing
here). What I want to do, then, is to create a medieval atmosphere by
engaging in traditional singing but, linguistically, I have cut out most
medieval song as unavailable. The average guy singing for the enjoyment of
his community in the Middle Ages would have sung something he learned from
his tradition, something he heard from another singer, or something he made
up. He wouldn't have had to research something written hundreds of years ago
(disclaimer to this later on, before I get a lot of comments on this
statement). So I generally sing something I learn from my own tradition,
another SCA bard, or something I made up. When singing *any* of these,
though, my first priority is not to break the medieval atmosphere! The
traditional Scottish song I sing at an event may not be period, but I never
sing a song that references something post-period and try my best to keep to
songs with period themes, images, and conventions. I won't sing filk to a
tune that people recognize as being modern because it will break the
atmosphere. You can expound from this.
HOWEVER, I am not a medieval singer. I am a modern guy. And I like
recreating the past. So, I WILL research songs from hundreds of years ago
and perform them. These, I'll do at competitions. I'll also do at bardic
circles or any other venue where they are welcome.
In competitions, I'll always document every song I sing as best I can,
because this is the place for it. However, it's different at bardic circles.
There, I want to preserve the mood. If I'm singing a song that is not quite
period, but helps create the medieval atmosphere of a community gathered
around a fire for entertainment in the evening, then to say, "This song is
actually first recorded in 1725 but has the same storyline as several songs
dating to the 16th century and so falls within the same tradition, so I think
it's appropriate here," would break the illusion I was trying to create.
Plus, to be frank, I doubt they would care much. The average SCAdian there
will simply want to hear a good song and enter the illusion for that evening.
Now, the ones who are into the music and maybe want to learn more and even
perform themselves will express their interest to me, and I gladly tell them
all I know about the song. As for songs that are from period--when I sing
them at bardic circles I'll state something like, "This was written by
So-and-So in the year 1548 for this or that occasion," or some other brief
background. This does not break the illusion, in my opinion, because it
references only period events. Subtle difference, but it is my rule of thumb.
Compare this, if you will, to the ever present T-tunic. If I am going to an
event to relax, have fun, maybe get dirty helping set up pavilions, do some
kitchen duty time, maybe roll around in the dirt with the children, I'll want
to wear something that; looks medieval, will not break the illusion, and that
I don't have to worry too much about. I'll go with a cotton or cotton blend
tunic or something similar. It looks medieval enough not to bring anyone out
of their illusion for the day. No, it's not period, and if anyone comes up
to me and expresses interest, I'll tell them that it's not, and why. But I
won't announce it to the world because that breaks the illusion as much as
jeans and a T-shirt would.
For a garb competition, or an event that I really want to be spiff, or
authentic, etc., I'll make my garb from linen, silk, wool, make sure the
colors are compatible with period dyes, and construct them according to the
most authentic patterns I can find. This would be analogous to the
well-documented song above.
Am I making any sense? I'm saying all of this mainly to let newcomers to
this list know that one does not have to be an early music expert to be
welcomed at SCA bardic circles, or even music competitions. What we expect
from our music is really what we expect from our clothing--a reasonable
attempt. Just consider your audience, consider your performance venue, and
where your own talents and interest lie, and you'll be fine.
I know my above letter is full of sweeping generalizations, but (as is often
the case with generalizations) I don't care. ;-)
Have fun everyone!
Tighearn Eoghan Og mac Labhrainn
Order of the Pearl * Order of the Phoenix Eye
Militant Society of Bards
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