minstrel: Instrument Differences

Tim Connor timcon at flash.net
Thu Nov 16 20:51:24 PST 2000

It is well-ploughed ground, but no one ever seems to get tired of
ploughing it
once more, so no need to apologize.  I do exclusively early period
music, so that's what I can speak to.

The mandolin is very late period, as far as I know.  However, there were
instruments earlier--Timothy McGee, in his book MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE
PERFORMER'S GUIDE (highly recommended)suggests that a mandolin could be
a reasonable substitute for a
medieval cittern or citole (though it would need to be restrung, and
tuned differently).   Even a
flatback mandolin would work in this role (though a simple oval shape
would be
more convincing than, say, the Gibson Lloyd Loar model).

As for early guitars--a cuatro (restrung with nylon), vihuela, or even a
baritone ukelele would be reasonable. All can be found at reasonable
prices, evene dirt cheap in the case of the uke.

There are plenty of options for instrument substitutions, given that
authentic period instruments are not really affordable for most of us. 
However, I
see no need to compromise on the music itself.  If it could hold an
audience 700
years ago, it can do so today--given a good performance.  You can't just
people to listen because it's authentic, though I do think there should
be an
effort by performers to educate the audience. (On the other hand,
there's also the
need for audiences to educate themselves--part of persona development
would seem
to be cultivating the tastes that one's persona would have--but that is
can of worms).  If people prefer to listen to filks based on modern pop
that's fine, or at least there's not much I can do about it--but I don't
have to
play the things.  There are books of early music out there--more for
later period than for the stuff I like to play (I spend a lot of time
transcribing from recordings), but it's available.  Perhaps we should
compile a list of music books to post on the A&S page.

Tadhg O Cuileannain

Taliesin of Earthstar wrote:

> All this talk of musical instruments has got me thinking about something.
> And as I'm a relative "newbie," if I'm covering "well-ploughed ground" I
> apologise.
> In the area of period music and period music instruments, my knowledge is
> lacking. I couldn't tell a violin from a bowed psaltery from a rebec, and
> from what I understand the rebec is the only one within SCA-period. I've
> seen a modern-made Welsh-style crwth that was strung/fretted/tuned like a
> banjo, and I've seen those "lute-shaped guitars" that some people object
> to so much. Indeed, I couldn't tell you if the mandolin I'm getting for
> Christmas is anywhere near a period style.
> Yet I also have seen people in the SCA get bored and walk away from songs
> like "Twa Corbies" and "Agincourt Carole," yet sit entranced by such
> perennial favorites as "Bored on the List-field" and "Beer, Cold Beer."
> Yes, there is, and will always be, an audience for strictly period music
> with strictly period instrumentation, but I guess I wonder how large the
> gap is between "popular" and "period" music.

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