Minstrels, Musicians, and Music-Makers: The Socio-Economic Value of Music-Making in Praise of Music Texts

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This chapter demonstrates how Elizabethan and Jacobean musical debates shaped notions of music’s socio-economic worth and the value of professional musicians (i.e., those earning a living through music) in society. The first part explores how traditional praise of music tropes were adapted in late sixteenth and early seventeenth-century English texts to emphasize music’s importance for work and productivity, and to disassociate it from idle beggars and minstrels. The second part of the chapter considers the strategies through which some praise of music texts – especially those known to be by professional musicians– actively redefined the music profession to separate minstrelsy from musicianship. This strategy of distinguishing musicians from minstrels appears to have gained some traction by the early seventeenth century, and the final section of the chapter explores how the rhetoric of musical beggars came to be co-opted to defend rather than condemn musicians, emphasizing the unacceptable hardship faced by church musicians and lobbying for change. Nevertheless, the boundary between low-paid musician and beggarly minstrel remained a porous one, as both musicians and contemporary social commentators observed in the case of cathedral singing-men.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationElizabethan and Early Jacobean Praises of Music
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Publication statusSubmitted - 2021

Publication series

NameMusic Theory in Britain, 1500–1700: Critical Editions

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