pennsicdance: modern vs. historical instruments and music

(John) Byron Boyd lutenist at
Mon Aug 29 19:41:53 PDT 2005

An open response to Dafydd, Henry, and Marie:

> Nowadays, there are many reasonably priced renaissance
> instruments available - use of a modern equivalent is just not the same. 
> Marie

While it is true that modern instruments do not sound like historical ones, some have a similar sound, and a few historical instruments (with minor changes in design) are still played today.  I mentioned some of those from the latter group (the cello, viola, violin, drums, triangles, and tambourines) previously.  Examples of those with similar sounds are the oboe, bassoon, and trombone (which I also discussed earlier).

>>. . . but until everyone is
>>rich enough to afford them, willing to expose their expensive
>>and rare instruments to Pennsic conditions, or can even find them,
>>we will have to make do with what we have:  guitars and bodhrans
> . . .
> OTOH, where bodhrans are concerned, the problem is easily fixed. The
> bodhran is modern, but the frame-drum is one of the most basic and (AFAIK)
> oldest kinds of drums. So you just hide the tipper and play with your 
> hand,
> or with a conventional drumstick. 
> Henry/Alex

The use of either those modern instruments that are essentially the same as those found during the Renaissance and the adaptation of other modern instruments so that they produce the similar sounds as Renaissance ones (this includes employing historical performance techniques rather than modern ones) is the primary point I have been trying to make.  Many musicians already own such instruments, and so can achieve this goal at little, if any expense.  About half of the members of the Loud Band play trombones instead of sackbuts.  In other words, the argument that my recommendation of using only instruments of historical design is either too expensive or too difficult for most to achieve is moot.

>Quite obviously, the dividing line between "we'll do it" and "we'll
>make do" is cost.  Shaped steel is expensive, pickle barrels are
>not.  Nylon tents are far easier to get hold of, put up, and deal with
>Dafydd Cyhoeddwr 

I use a nylon tent at events, largely because it serves me only as storage for my property and a as bedroom.  I spend very little time my tent during the day; indeed, at many events I simply sleep in my car.  If I spent more time in my camp then I would likely buy a "period" tent.

>Period instruments are usually (though not always) expensive,
>hard to get, hard to play and hard to maintain... until
>everyone is rich enough to afford them, willing to expose their
>expensive and rare instruments to Pennsic conditions, or can even find them,
>we will have to make do with what we have:  guitars and bodhrans and
>pipes, modern flutes and trumpets, etc.
>Dafydd Cyhoeddwr 

Again, as I have mentioned both in my previous posts and in my response to Henry's comments in this one, there are too many inexpensive Renaissance instruments that require little care to support this point.  Also, the viola da gambas (delicate instruments if ever there were any) that both myself and another member of the Loud Band have brought to Pennsic have never suffered any damage.  Likewise, I have never had any problems with my lute (another delicate instrument).


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