Abstract and Keywords
Music was a more significant component in late medieval and early modern society than most historians have acknowledged. It provided one of the most versatile means of communication, and like some other forms of art, did not have to rely on words. It readily crossed both social and cultural boundaries, and allowed practitioners (whether musically literate or not) to express both collective and individual creativity in ways that were infinitely variable, to suit different sensibilities and different social contexts. Music was everywhere, and although it could be used to reinforce social distinction and religious messages, it could also create scope for social mobility and even the blurring of gender roles. Musical training and performance required specific forms of social organization, and quality instruments relied on highly sophisticated technical infrastructures and skills. This chapter explores how far a study of music can enrich our understanding of the society which created it.
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