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A Brief Music History Of The Gleeman Part 1

As Europe emerged from the barbarism, savagery and intellectual barrenness of the centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire. Music was available in two distinct types, which was represented by two distinct people of the time, the Monk and the Gleeman or Minstrel.

The Monk lived and worked quietly behind the strong walls of his monastery. The Minstrel, travelled from town to town all over the land mixing with all classes of society, the friend and favourite of every one, utterly destitute of all status, and a man whom it was scarcely a crime to defraud or kill. The letter of music dwelt in the monasteries, but the spirit of music, staggered drunk, wandering aimlessly, yet providing popular music for the masses. (I know some keyboard players that fit that description)

The Minstrels were poor and walked to there destinations. As well as Minstrels, there were Acrobats, Jugglers and Mountebanks who use to sell magic potions that could cure any ailment and entertained with stories and jokes. These entertainers were regarded as extremely important and even vital for the social economy of the Middle Ages, and are thought to have been a direct survival of the gladiatorial caste of Imperial Rome.

With more peaceful times, emerged an art, more entitled to the name of Minstrelsy, than the poor performance of the strollers who entertained at castle gates and market places. For a long period, Provence was the most peaceful place in Europe, and in that sunny place, Minstrelsy was greatly accepted by the rich and poor. From the eleventh century, the Troubadours were treated with honour and respect.

The history of the Troubadour as existing in Provenge, in the days prior to the Albigensian Crusade, forms one of the most interesting and unique episodes in musical and literary history. The social position of the Troubadours was a curious one. Recruited, as was the order, from all ranks of society, the Troubadour might be the son of a knight, as was Guiilem de Cabestanh; or he might belong to the trading classes, as did Peire Vidal, the son of a furrier at Toulouse. In any sphere of life, however, the fact of being a Troubadour at once placed a man on a sort of equality with the greatest, for a Troubadour was essentially a privileged person.

You would think that the Troubadour would have a lot in common with the Minstrel, but the Troubadour had no love for the Minstrel and at every opportunity would talk down to the Minstrel with sarcastic cruelty.

The Troubadour combined within himself elements of two modern institutions, Public Opinion and the Press. Like the minstrel at large, he was a kind of walking newspaper, and his compositions found their way through the land more quickly than the last news from the Crusades.

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About The Author: Mike Shaw is an organist and keyboard player and owns music websites and

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