Monday, May 17, 2010

Aether Salon: Music!

This month's guest at the Aether Salon was the Steamlands' eminent musicologist, Miss Gabrielle Riel, whose ownership of the eponymous Radio Riel has made her known throughout the radio-listening and ball-going lands.

Her talk on Sunday naturally centered on music (or "Music!" as it were, with the Salon) in the Victorian era, as well as that broad and amorphous category of "Neo-Victorian" music.

Miss Riel sat in the Salon's hot seat (though the crowd was, as usual, polite if boisterous), but directed our attention to the slide show (seen in the first photograph, above), with which she outlined her presentation. Period music appropriate to each topic streamed throughout her talk, adding a new dimension to the presentation.

Miss Riel began with the Classical period (1730-1820), playing some Mozart for us, before switching the discussion to the Romantic Period (1815-1910), when "Composers began to 'break the rules' in terms of the structures of their pieces and music became more expansive and lyrical. They brought more emotion to their works. Many composers used poetry for inspiration for their music during this era."

Below, Miss Saffia Widdershins listens intently.

The next topics were Opera and Social dances of the time, such as the waltz and the polka. Miss Riel noted:

"The Waltz, which originated in Vienna, debuted in Great Britain in 1812, before Victoria's ascension to the throne, but people initially condemned it as shockingly inappropriate, due to the fact that the dance partners were in such a close hold!

" The Polka appeared in the mid 19th Century and came from Central Europe. The Mazurka was a Polish Folk Dance that became a popular dance in the Victorian Ballroom. The Schottische was a Bohemian Folk dance that was also a part of the Ballroom 'folk dancing craze.'"

Turning to more popular music, Miss Riel said, "A new form of music and music venue appeared during the Victorian Era. The Music Hall was born from the entertainment of public house saloons that was common in the 1830s. The saloon was a room that charged an admission fee to see the singing, dancing, drama or comedy that was performed there. The first Music Halls built for the purpose of public entertainment appeared in the mid 19th Century."

"The songs of American Composer Stephen Foster became extremely popular in these venues all over the world. Irish jigs, Polkas and Waltzes all influenced Music Hall songs in England while Vaudeville exploded in the United States, with a substantial influence from African American music in the late 19th Century."

As a sign of the growing respect for the music of the folk, composers of "serious" music started incorporating bits of popular tunes into their compositions.

Below, Miss Breezy Carver (left) and Miss Ceejay Writer. Miss Writer allowed as to how she was "headbanging" to the Mozart piece, whatever that means.

Music also came into the house: "By the 1850s, most middle class families had a piano in their Parlour and at least one family member who could play it. Families and friends would gather there and create their own music. Thanks to the brand new music publishing business, music and bookstores sold songs in sheet music form."

Below, Miss Bookworm Hienrichs dances to "This Corrosion," by The Sisters of Mercy, waving her oil lamp enthusiastically:

The good people of New Babbage, upon hearing the racket that the song produced, surely must have started gathering their torches and pitchforks.

Turning to Neo-Victorian music, Miss Riel noted that opinions differed widely regarding what fell into this category. While not attempting to resolve this debate, she divided the category into "Roots" music, Goth, Steampunk, Dark Cabaret, Carnivale, and Marching & Kletzmer bands.

" The “Roots” Music is the music that people, looking back with hindsight, see as foundational styles and themes for today's Neo-Victorian scene. Probably the artists that most people agree was the father of it all was Paul Roland, a British musician who released some Victorian and Edwardian themed songs in the early and mid 1980s. Adam Ant's early work is sometimes seen as foundational as well.

"Carnivale music is exactly what is sounds like, contemporary music influenced by traditional carnival and circus music."
A most informative lecture!

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