- For a couple of years now in the car, if I'm looking for music and not
news, I've tended to listen to BBC Radio 3, which is back to back
classical. I can't talk about it because I don't know it well enough. I
just like listening to it. I like piano and violin a lot, though not
More recently...perhaps 3 or 6 months, I've become deeply interested in
looking at art. This is still a real surprise to me and in another
department in my mind something I work to make sense of. I think it's
connected to previously wanting to understand the origin and nature of
science. Which inevitably leads to wanting to understand the strands of
history that produced it. Which, I think, in the end, cannot be
separated from the emergence of art..and music.
And poetry, and writing.
In the end the major explanation seems to fall toward aristocracy. Which
may not be a popular or fashionable way to look at things but once you
do begin to look at history, it becomes pretty clear that the beginnings
have to be in aristocratic traditions, because there aren't any other.
You can't really separate religion from this because the two strands
joined quite a long way back.
Right now my simplified thesis is along the lines of, the Normans
invasions had the effect of merging the ruling elites right across the
continent. Norman conquests in Italy were particularly significant
because once those barons had defeated the locals and and begun to seal
Europe from Islam, they turned out to be remarkably liberal in their
Little multcultural city states emerged on the Italian coastlines which
become major centres of trade, cultural exchange, and innovation. All of
which was very much began to set the scene for the cultural revolutions
that would emerge hundreds of years later. But something else was
happening, that was more subtle.
A continent wide aristocracy, in practice, for individual members,
especially the young, often meant marrying people hundreds or thousands
of miles away. Which meant leaving behind everyone you knew and loved
and possibly never seeing any of them again. This was happening on a
conistent and frequent basis, right across generations of aristocracy,
and it must have been heart wrenching.
To cut a long story short, something simple that emerged out of this,
was letter writing. Letters became so important to people. Writing and
letters were often the only contact a young person ever again had with
parents, siblings and friends. The need for new ways to communicate and
be in touch began to drive new expressions....poetry...and then art.
Accurate art. Art that could communicate people and places across
Also the social need for multilingualism, which in turn drove
standardization in individual languages, which in turn established
techical platforms for their expansion. The need for standardization was
real and pressing, not intellectual. People were communicating with
language, with music, with art. There needed to be a way to play music
written a thousand miles away.
The rise of these disciplines with the standardization to allow the
achievements of a (aristocratic) girl in Prussia to be compared to a
(aristocratic) girl in Scotland, faciliated a new and richer "eugenic"
edge to colour the incidence of marriage. The dimensions across which to
assess the more able expanded, and those with talen (and beauty) were of
But what happened to the less accomplished was perhaps even more
influential. Less able aristocratic suitors were driven, first to seek
similarly unable equals across the continent, and then to seek marriage
among the senior courtiers and then the more up and coming of the
trading classes. And so the aristocratic traditions and practices began
to 'trickle down' (just read Emily Bronte or any of the other classics,
of and for, the middle classes of the time)
Thus the scene was being set for the European Englightenment and the
revolutions such as Science that would follow.
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