Where Romance and History Meet - www.heartsthroughhistory.com/

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cutting Edge Music

As Blythe Gifford posted in September, I also listen to music when I write. I even create a playlist to get me in the mood. So how is this post different than the excellent one she posted last month?

Well, most of what I listen to is popular music. Cutting edge music. But we all tend to think of historical music as "classical." Venerable. Revered. Even stodgy and dull. What we all forget is that the music we now think of as stodgy and dull was the popular, cutting edge music back in its day.

Think of the waltz? Boring dance right? Well, maybe compared with modern gyrations on the dance floor it might be, but when it first appeared it was scandalous. Men and women in each others arms, pelvises together mimicking...sex. It was popular. It was cutting edge. And everybody was doing it - even if they only did it behind closed doors.

Now think of the musicians creating that music. Creating scandal. As today, they were the bad boys that all the women and girls probably watched with baited breath whether they admitted it or not.

What do we think of when we think of Mozart? He's the epitomy of classical music today. But when he was making music, he was a scandal. He was rude, crude and obnoxious (if the play/movie Amadeus can be believed). Yet the women went nuts for him. Well, if he really looked like the portrait to the left, I can guess why. There's a wicked twinkle in his eye that women respond to. He's not bad looking and dang, he created some amazing music. How could he not attract the chicks? He was the Elvis of his day. And I bet the dads hated the guy and kept their little girls far, far away.

I'm sure the antipathy between dads and musicians go back far longer than that. After all, the Middle Ages featured the troubadours. Young men who traveled from place to place with their instruments and made a living off their music. Secular music. Music about love. Courtly love. Forbidden love. Oh my...more sex. How delightfully wicked.

Imagine Nickelback (or fill in your favorite rock band with appropriately hot lead singer) showing up at your front door offering to play their music while you eat dinner. What's not hot about that?

In the image I've added here (painted by Edmund Blair Leighton) I don't know if the dude with the fancy hat is the father or the husband, but either way...he looks worried. And well he should. Musicians are and were the hot bad boys we'd all love to dally with in our deepest fantasies. And back in the day, their music was the scandalous, cutting edge stuff that rock music or hip hop is today. Keep it in mind when you're writing because it can help you create a useful and/or funny scene for a historical romance you write in the future.

What's your favorite historical music? Do you think the composer or performer was stodgy or a bad boy back when he wrote it?


Natalie said...

I agree, music can inspire. Thanks for the great information!

Francesca Hawley said...

Hi Nardi. Music has a really major impact on me and on my writing. When I was writing my medieval, I listened to the King's Singers and Mediaeval Baebes. It really set the tone for my writing.

Anthea Lawson said...

Great post, Francesca! I do a lot of research on Regency and Victorian music, and it's true - musicians have always been cutting edge. Chopin, Paganini, Liszt were the rock stars of their day! Pianist Franz Liszt would have 100 pairs of white gloves made at a time so he could take a pair off (sexily no doubt) and bestow them on one of his many swooning female admirers. :) I'm working on a series right now that features some of those bad-boy heroes, set against the glittering backdrop of 19th century musical celebrity. Fun stuff!

Maggie Rivers said...

Awesome post, Francesca. Hadn't thought of musicians from yesteryear as "bad boys". What a hoot! I don't write historical but I can certainly see where thinking of the musicians in that light would certainly help.

Francesca Hawley said...

Anthea and Maggie,
Thanks for stopping by to check out my post. Liszt sounds like an intriguing guy with his white glove gimmick with the ladies.


Blythe Gifford said...

Francesca: I can see we both really see music as a way to bring history alive. And you are so right about "bad boys." The hero of my September book, IN THE MASTER'S BED, plays the gittern. (Think medieval guitar.) When my heroine first sees him carrying the instrument, she thinks that means he's a traveling entertainer and "the personification of all vices."

Mary McCall said...

I have to admit I am partial to gregorian chant and polyphony. I have music degree in voice and there is something ethereal about the voice with no accompaniment that raises the heart and mind spiritually. Of course, in a lusty mood, I'll go with Carmen. But truthfully, I've done some of my best writing to ALW's Phantom of the Opera. Though modern, that music is ages of musical sensuality and sexuality culminating at their peak.

Savanna Kougar said...

Francesca, so true about music, from what little I've studied. They were the bad boy musicians of their day.
A favorite, it would really depend on my mood... though, I certainly enjoy the medieval troubador songs.

Kathryn Albright said...

Great post, Francesca. Music really does speak to the soul--and filters between the cracks of a person to moderate mood. I never thought of the minstrals of old as "bad boys." Interesting image--and you are most likely quite right about it.

Since I write western historicals, I'm trying to think if there are any musicians in that setting that correlate. Hmmm--harmonicas...not quite the same image... :)