Music in the medieval period

This is a great synthesis of Pageau and Tom Holland. It is interesting to point out how important the medieval period is to the West’s mythic imagination which is reified in fantasy novels, movies, and video games––usually without the (overt) Christianity, unless it is being targeted for political reasons. Even space operas like Star Wars (“a long time ago…”) draw from medieval archetypes (search “burnous maghrebin” in Google images and you will find the cloaks that North African Arabs and Berbers actually wear in North Africa where Tatooine was filmed… look familiar?). Video games, movies, TV are psychotechnologies of mythos reification which is why we are hooked (including me!)

Allow me to smuggle in my ethnomusicology background and also point out the observation that in the medieval period, everywhere, music was believed to be associated with all kinds of things that had nothing to do with music. Musical scales and instruments, for example, were connected to bodily humors, to hours of the day, or thought to cure certain sicknesses of the body. The cross-cultural universality of this is pretty remarkable. Then modernism hit and they became “just scales” and instruments became chordophones/aerophones/idiophones/membranophones. Still, we use music to re-enchant our every day existence, even if we’ve left behind the alchemy (though, Music Therapy is an actual medical field). And Lord of the Rings or Star Wars wouldn’t be nearly as half-effective without their compelling soundtracks which are almost entirely based on –– pause for emphasis –– orchestral music. Nearly all cinema still uses orchestral music, and any film with an “epic” scope, even space operas or techno-dystopias like Star Trek/Wars, the Matrix, Stargate, Ender’s Game, etc., still pulls from those ‘classical’ musical roots… no matter how advanced or carried away the fanciful technology used in the films, the score still uses centuries-old acoustic musical technologies of horse hair, aged wood, brass, metalic cymbals… which is why music is a psychotechnology to ease you into thinking something as unbelievable as lightsaber-wielding jedi knights still feels ancient and familiar, because we know what heroism and honor sound like, even if the creatures and buildings and lasers on our screen are surreal.

About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
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