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Music as a trade (Pepys)

GUEST,Jack Sprocket 26 Jun 15 - 05:52 PM
GUEST,Jack Sprocket 26 Jun 15 - 06:15 PM
Sandra in Sydney 26 Jun 15 - 09:43 PM
Crowhugger 27 Jun 15 - 01:12 AM
GUEST,leeneia 27 Jun 15 - 10:38 AM
meself 27 Jun 15 - 01:03 PM
GUEST 27 Jun 15 - 01:41 PM
GUEST,Dave 27 Jun 15 - 04:25 PM
GUEST,Jack Sprocket 27 Jun 15 - 04:57 PM
Steve Gardham 27 Jun 15 - 06:01 PM
Marje 28 Jun 15 - 09:20 AM
GUEST,Ripov 28 Jun 15 - 08:27 PM
GUEST,leeneia 28 Jun 15 - 10:25 PM
GUEST,DaveRo 29 Jun 15 - 03:02 AM
Will Fly 29 Jun 15 - 08:22 AM
GUEST,Dave 29 Jun 15 - 09:18 AM
GUEST 29 Jun 15 - 10:03 AM
meself 29 Jun 15 - 10:30 AM
Will Fly 29 Jun 15 - 10:33 AM
GUEST,leeneia 30 Jun 15 - 09:45 AM
Will Fly 30 Jun 15 - 09:52 AM
GUEST,Reynard 30 Jun 15 - 10:31 AM
Will Fly 30 Jun 15 - 12:29 PM
GUEST,leeneia 01 Jul 15 - 11:45 AM
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Subject: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: GUEST,Jack Sprocket
Date: 26 Jun 15 - 05:52 PM


Wednesday 8 May 1661
...
To-day I received a letter from my uncle, to beg an old fiddle of me for my Cozen Perkin, the miller, whose mill the wind hath lately broke down, and now he hath nothing to live by but fiddling, and he must needs have it against Whitsuntide to play to the country girls; but it vexed me to see how my uncle writes to me, as if he were not able to buy him one...


How much of music was traditionally for fun, and how much for a desperate living? Clearly Perkin wouldn't normally depend o his fiddling for a living, and didn't seem to play it for fun (otherwise he'd have had one). What kind of facility could the dancers have expected from an unpractised fiddler? And where did the country girls get their fiddlers when Perkin's mill was working?


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: GUEST,Jack Sprocket
Date: 26 Jun 15 - 06:15 PM

And more...


Friday 17 May 1661

...where to our dinner we had a fellow play well upon the bagpipes and whistle like a bird exceeding well, and I had a fancy to learn to whistle as he do, and did promise to come some other day and give him an angell to teach me.


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 26 Jun 15 - 09:43 PM

thanks for posting these extracts -

I'm looking forward to more


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: Crowhugger
Date: 27 Jun 15 - 01:12 AM

Yes, thanks. It's got my curiosity piqued so I downloaded the free ebook from Project Gutenberg. Here's the page where you can choose the format in which you want to download it for yourself:
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/4200


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 27 Jun 15 - 10:38 AM

I wonder why Pepys wrote that his cousin would 'play to the country girls.' Why just girls? I would have assumed that his cousin would be playing for dancing by males and females, whether young or old.


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: meself
Date: 27 Jun 15 - 01:03 PM

Could it be for a sort of kind of ceremonial dance (that, of course, goes back to before the Druids and once involved human sacrifice if not cannibalism)? I'm thinking of a scene in a more recent movie production of 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles', in which the local 'virgins' are doing some kind seasonal dance not involving the swains, except as on-lookers.


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Jun 15 - 01:41 PM

Maybe Perkin did have a fiddle but it was destroyed when the mill was "broken down." That sounds like it collapsed. Pepys didn't say that the mill broke down, like an old car, but that the wind broke the mill down).

Surely Perkin must've had a fiddle and kept in practice on it, or he wouldn't have thought he could make a living playing one. Maybe he kept it at the mill so he could play while the grain was being ground, using the machine noises as back-up percussion.

That still wouldn't prove that he played it for pleasure, though. It may have been a side job, to supplement the meager income he got from the rickety old mill that was so susceptible to damage. It sounds like the old clunker wasn't worth rebuilding, and maybe it didn't provide enough income to pay for insurance or to build up a nest egg to repair it or build a new one, or even to buy a fiddle.


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: GUEST,Dave
Date: 27 Jun 15 - 04:25 PM

Leenia, I think that the motivations of male musicians may not have changed that much over four centuries.


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: GUEST,Jack Sprocket
Date: 27 Jun 15 - 04:57 PM

Well. as a sort of occasional fiddler I'm not sure that my motivation for fiddling is the same as Dave's. Or perhaps I'm just not as successful a player.

The contributor who suggested that Perkin's fiddle coud have been destroyed in the wrack of the mill may be close, though I think Pepys' uncle might have mentioned this, and Sam would have recorded it as something interesting. So many questions, so few answers.

And why just the girls? Here we have Sam Pepys, a lad from the country making his mark as not yet a definite gentleman, but a talented technocrat so indispensible to the powers-that-be that he hobnobs with the mighty (the Duke of York and Lord Sandwich among others). And he's asked for a favour by a rustic connection that is so athwart his track of life, and so recalling his origin, that he perhaps wants to belittle that part of his past- not just provincial, but unmasculine as well?

I know no more than you do about the times: go and read Pepys' Diary and live his life in slow realtime ( a new entry every day). Let's compare (musical) notes.


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 27 Jun 15 - 06:01 PM

From what I've read millers were always on the fiddle.


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: Marje
Date: 28 Jun 15 - 09:20 AM

Maybe (this is a complete guess) the "girls" were in fact young girls, perhaps 10- or 12-year-olds, learning to dance but too young yet to be dancing with young men?


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: GUEST,Ripov
Date: 28 Jun 15 - 08:27 PM

Maybe a clue here


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 28 Jun 15 - 10:25 PM

Thanks, Ripov. That's interesting.


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: GUEST,DaveRo
Date: 29 Jun 15 - 03:02 AM

All we know is that Pepys' uncle, John Perkin, cadged a fiddle for his son Frank whose mill had blown down, maybe recently. Pepys played the violin - he came fron a musical family. 'Old fiddle' suggests John knew that Pepys had or might have a spare. Perhaps John didn't word his request well if it vexed Pepys.

This_book relates a subsequent meeting between Pepys and Frank Perkin.

The comedown between being a miller and becoming an itinerant musician seems stark. Perhaps he was just a labourer in someone else's mill, and the owner couldn't affort to reconstruct it.

The comment about 'country girls' may have just been Pepys being dismissive. Or perhaps he knew Frank's character. I don't know how old Frank was in 1661 but he appears to have a wife and children two years later.


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: Will Fly
Date: 29 Jun 15 - 08:22 AM

I work as a steward in a working post-mill ("Jill" on Clayton Down is Sussex). I also have the complete Pepys Diary in 11 volumes!

Pepys wasn't a country lad, but a fairly urbane man with country connections. He was related to and patronised by the Montagu family, was well educated in London, and went to Cambridge University.

As he became more secure in London, and wealthier, he was approached by poorer relations from time to time, including uncles and cousins (and by all sorts of other people) wanting some pecuniary or other favour. It's quite possible the uncle was trying it on.

As for wooden windmills, they were a good source of income but very prone to destruction - mainly by fire (flour dust is very combustible) or by being "tail-winded", i.e. being blown down by high winds if not facing into the wind. There was no insurance and no welfare state in those days so, if you had no savings and your sole means of getting money was destroyed - what could you do? Take up your fiddle - if you had one!

Perhaps the Whitsuntide dancing was an equivalent to our more modern carnival queen or May queen traditions - mainly involving country lasses.


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: GUEST,Dave
Date: 29 Jun 15 - 09:18 AM

Also, remember that this is 1661, two years after the end of the Commonwealth, and fiddling and public dancing would probably have been, if not proscribed, at least not very welcome, for several years.


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Jun 15 - 10:03 AM

Actually, I think there was insurance for business properties then, or at least for business properties of substantial value. It became more widespread after the London fire of 1666, but insurance in general dates back to the ancient world.

As "meself" pointed out, the country girls in Tess of the D'Urbervilles had a regularly scheduled ceremonial dance that seemed pretty important to them.

If Perkin didn't have a fiddle, the quote suggests that fiddling was considered a very low skill, something that anyone could do but might not choose to do unless they had no other alternative, i.e. couldn't even get a job working in a mill. My experience is that fiddling is very difficult, at least if you want to stay on key; but maybe they didn't care so much about that back then.


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: meself
Date: 29 Jun 15 - 10:30 AM

I don't see any reason to think that Perkin was not a competent fiddler who, for whatever reason, was without a fiddle. It might not have taken him long to get back up to speed, if he were out of practice.


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: Will Fly
Date: 29 Jun 15 - 10:33 AM

As I recall, property insurance as we know it today really took off - mainly in London - as a result of the Great Fire of 1666. Before that, there was a system of friendly societies, though how widespread it was I can't say.

Sounds like the poor old miller didn't have any anyway in 1661!


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 30 Jun 15 - 09:45 AM

"and fiddling and public dancing would probably have been, if not proscribed, at least not very welcome, for several years."

Are you sure about that? Because I read in a dance source that when Oliver Cromwell's daughter got married, the dancing continued by candlelight all night long.


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: Will Fly
Date: 30 Jun 15 - 09:52 AM

Cromwell was rather an out of the ordinary case, perhaps, and a marriage was a special and private occasion on which revelry would be allowed. The Puritans certainly proscribed numerous public revelries. Ronald Hutton's "Stations Of The Sun: A History Of The Ritual Year In Britain" enumerates the proscription or otherwise of many of the traditional festivities like the Whitsun Ale throughout various periods.

The Catholic monarchies such as Queen Mary's seem to have been more liberal than the Protestants when it came to such things.


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: GUEST,Reynard
Date: 30 Jun 15 - 10:31 AM

It is my understanding that the Puritans were mainly opposed to music and dance in a religious setting; ie the rituals of the Catholic tradition that had carried over from the middle ages that were not based in scripture and were therefore considered potentially idolatrous or pagan by reformers.

On the other hand they had more mixed views about music and dance in a secular setting, ranging from some that thought it was OK if done in a way that was not overtly debauched and immoral, to extremists that thought all merrymaking was inherently sinful.

Wasn't the original edition of Playford's Dancing Master actually published during the Commonwealth? Surely that would have been madness if the prevailing view was that all dancing was essentially wrong and implicitly banned?


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: Will Fly
Date: 30 Jun 15 - 12:29 PM

I think we probably have to make a distinction between formal occasions on which dancing took place and was approved - and some traditional rituals involving dancing, mumming, ales, blackface, etc., which were seen to have a pagan and non-Christian basis, and which were often the causes of "bad behaviour" like drunkenness and fornication.

Hutton's book makes the historical disapproval of the latter things on the part of the church authorities quite clear.

Bring on the drunkenness and fornication say I, but there you have it!


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Subject: RE: Music as a trade (Pepys)
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 01 Jul 15 - 11:45 AM

It's the usual, as usual. There were a lot of different Puritans, and so they had a lot of different opinions. But the extremes get remembered.

Reynard, you have a good point about the Playford books.


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