Mudcat Café message #3776658 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #159372   Message #3776658
Posted By: keberoxu
04-Mar-16 - 03:36 PM
Thread Name: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)
Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
There is a factor in the condescension/patronizing/pejorative attitude of gut-stringed Celtic harps in the hands of the gentler sex, which is not simply sexism; and I think this factor rears its ugly head in so persistent a way, that the light ought to be shone firmly upon it. In order to do so, another musical instrument, with its own histories, traditions, and notorious caricatures, might be introduced here: it is the piano, with everything that the piano symbolizes.

I am looking at "Men, Women, and Pianos," the book from the 1950's by Arthur Loesser. This book, while highly entertaining, is non-fiction, and intended to summarize not only the piano's place in music, but also in human society, with considerations like class distinction and wealth/economy.

Look at the historical period when the invaluable Carolan is drawing his last breath, and Edward Bunting is doing what he may to document the Belfast Harper's festival. The tradition of the Celtic harper bard appears doomed at this point, with the attempt to revive or resuscitate its traces at least a hundred years in the future. And what is on the rise? The harpsichord is firmly in place, and the fortepiano, which will one day become the piano, putting down roots and preparing to dominate the nineteenth century.

A few quotes from the aforementioned book, and Arthur Loesser:

from chapter 18, The Piano As A Female 'Accomplishment.' Opening sentence:
The history of the pianoforte and the history of the social status of women [in the nineteenth century -- keberoxu] can be interpreted in terms of one another. -endquote
This chapter goes on to dissect 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'Vanity Fair,' with their literary commentaries about genteel females playing the piano.

p. 268: 'Music was, indeed, considered one of the most important of the young ladylike "accomplishments;" it was a favorite because it could be shown off best while actually being accomplished.
[ as contrasted with: drawing, painting, making artifical flowers of wax, paper, or fabric, to say nothing of needlepoint and embroidery]
In this sphere, music reduced itself to singing and playing the pianoforte, though the guitar and the harp were the keyboard's occasional temporary rivals.'

I propose that this scenario, one toward which the attitude of the defenders of traditional music is conflicted at best, and at worst contemptuous, is directly connected to the "spinning Eileens" and the denigration of same.