Getting back to things medieval, I have asked several historians to participate in a brief interview, discovering a little about what was near and dear to people in the middle ages, namely cookery, music, and clothing. Now, this being a brief interview we certainly didn’t get into anything that might be considered a treatise. After all, the period we are talking about spans roughly between 500 AD to 1500 AD. It would be just as hard to generalize about the last hundred years as perhaps these thousand we are focusing on. I have asked three historians to give me their views. In no particular order, We have:
THOR EWING http://www.historicalarts.co.uk/thor.html As a singer and musician, Thor Ewing works with musician Anne Marie Summers in the duo Squeake’s Noyse, performing songs and music from a wide variety of historical periods on an equally wide variety of instruments (bagpipes, hurdy gurdy, harp, lyre, bone flutes, recorder, percussion etc.). Thor also performs with the bands Misericordia and Gaïta. Thor also works as a historical storyteller, telling tales appropriate to a variety of eras. Research and performance are combined to produce performance sets on specific themes, such as the life of Admiral Lord Collingwood, General Wolfe, Scandinavia in British traditional music, wisdom poetry from medieval Wales and Ireland etc. He has also just released a book on Viking Clothing http://www.historicalarts.co.uk/books/vikingclothing.html which includes a section on textiles in early medieval Scandinavia, and he’s also in a couple of bands performing medieval music in the UK http://www.mandrakemusic.co.ukand http://www.historicalarts.co.uk/musicians/squeake.html and www.squeake.co.uk and http://www.historicalarts.co.uk/musicians/lyre.html.
HENK ’T JONG http://www.scapreel.nl/html/indexenglish.html Though fascinated in the Middle Ages, Henk received his degree in Graphic Design. He was employed as comic strip artist for three of the most well known comics-magazines in the Netherlands and added heraldic artist and designer for a Dutch state department and the Central Bureau for Genealogy to his list of achievements (pardon the pun). He published articles on heraldry and flags in the formost Dutch magazines, and in his hometown Dordrecht, he researched, designed and put together 34 exhibitions with historical themes. He was also the designer of and contributor to the archive's magazine, he gave courses in heraldry, historic research and paleography, helped amateurs and scholars doing archival research, organised historical city tours and lectured about heraldry all over the Netherlands. He was the initiator and founder of the medieval society “The Hither Lands'. This society researches and reconstructs medieval life of the common man in the Netherlands. Which led him to form a re-enactmentgroup called Die Wapentuers van Dordrecht, (litt: the footsoldiers of Dordrecht) which reconstructs this town's militia in 1300 and become designer of the medieval village Gravendam of the archeological themepark Archeon in Alphen aan den Rijn (Nederland). By joining the 'archeotolken' in their daily life in the diverse types of medieval houses, he has experienced at first hand what life in these dwellings was like.
Alice V. Clark is an associate professor and coordinator of music history and literature at Loyola University New Orleans, where she has taught since 2000. She did her undergraduate degree at Ohio State and graduate degrees at the University of Texas at Austin and Princeton. Her research focuses on aspects of the medieval motet and music in fourteenth-century France, but she teaches widely, including a yearly seminar on opera and a course on Hildegard of Bingen and her world.
What led all of you to your interests in things medieval?
Thor Ewing: The short answer is that I was led by my name, but I think I would have been captivated by the Middle Ages anyway; I was always into castles and knights as a boy.
Henk tJong: History lessons in primary school, furthered by interesting teachers in high school, of whom the one teaching me the medieval part of history in second grade (when I was 14 or 15) was the best. He lighted the flame, so to speak. Later, in Art College, I was struck by the shapes of armour, arms, calligraphy, castles and heraldry and my hobby became reading as much as I could on these subjects. I bought lots of English books in the 70's and became quite knowledgeable in English medieval history. But reading historical novels and watching medievalish inspired movies stimulated me also; not in the least because they started me doing research about what really happened.
Alice V. Clark: Hard to say--I changed majors from music education to music history in college on the strength of the required history survey, but, while I did enjoy at least some aspects of medieval music, I'm not sure it caught me then. Also as an undergraduate I took classes through the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies on interdisciplinary topics such as "The Court of Charlemagne" and "Gothic Paris," and those probably helped spark an interest, as did a course on medieval music with Chuck Atkinson. A seminar with Becky Baltzer at UT on Guillaume de Machaut pushed it a bit further, and I was certainly interested in aspects of early music by the time I applied to Princeton, though I was considering dissertation topics in areas related to French opera as late as the summer after my general exams. A seminar with Meg Bent and David Howlett on the medieval motet the following fall, though, pretty much sealed the deal.
As a teacher of music history, I necessarily spend a good deal of my time and energy outside the middle ages, but we've also got a couple of terrific medievalists here at Loyola in history and English, and that bifocal perspective--one foot in music, from Greek antiquity to the present, and the other in the interdisciplinary world of medieval studies--has been important to me at least since grad school, when I discovered the Committee for (now Program in) Medieval Studies at Princeton. So I really owe Bill Jordan a debt of gratitude as well.
Do you have a favorite time period and place (Northern Europe, Asia, Middle East, for example) within the medieval era? One in which you particularly specialize, and if so, why did you make that choice?
Thor Ewing: Northern Europe in the Early Middle Ages. That'll be down to the name!
Henk tJong: The first half of the 14th c in Northwestern Europe, because it's just such an aesthetically pleasing period: beautiful clothing, heraldry, architecture, bookart, writing, music and it's also the first period about which lots of sources are available in the common speach instead of latin. Especially in Nederland. Historically it's also very rewarding: lots of things happening all over the place.
Alice V. Clark: I specialize mostly in France in the fourteenth century. In some ways that wasn't an entirely conscious choice, since my topic grew out of the seminar I mentioned earlier, but I certainly found it congenial from an early stage. There's lots going on at that time that can relate to music: for instance, the political difficulties of the period around 1316-17 are manifested in the deluxe manuscript of the Roman de Fauvel, and Guillaume de Machaut was connected with many kings and nobles.
The medieval motet is to my mind the quintessential medieval genre, because it allows for the mixing of what we separate as "sacred" and "secular," elaborate intertextual connections, number symbolism, and many other factors, many of which can't actually be heard. This lines up really well with the idea of music transmitted from the Greeks through Boethius, where sounding music is actually less important than higher harmonies such as what later writers called "the music of the spheres." (We still hold some of these views--note how we use words like "harmony" and "consonance" in non-musical senses.) These are works that were, of course, sung and heard, but there are both audible and inaudible aspects, and some of the inaudible subtleties may function rather like those grotesques way up high in Gothic cathedrals: nobody knows they're there except the people who put them there, those they told, and God, and that's enough. All this may seem strange to us, but I think it gives us some real insight into the medieval character. There are other areas, though, that I really enjoy teaching: the flowering of polyphonic music that comes into being as the current cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris is being built, for example, or how the marriages of Eleanor of Aquitaine and others help spread the idea of troubadour song into other vernacular languages, or the way that the creation of Gregorian chant during the Carolingian era can be linked to the consolidation of the empire. (That last may be in the process of being reinterpreted, but the linking of religious and political motives I suspect will survive, even if the precise time when that happens is shifted.)
What is the first step you take in researching your subject? How do you follow it up?
Thor Ewing: Usually, the first step is obvious; it is usually closely connected with my inspiration for following a particular subject. I try to solo-brainstorm the idea, and then check out libraries. If it's unfamiliar territory, I'll often do a few websearches too, though they are most helpful in finding books I might have missed.
Henk tJong: Reading, reading and reading. Followed up by looking at pictures (internet or in books) and if necessary experimenting with stuff or talking with those who have done that.
Alice V. Clark: This is hard for me to answer right now, in part because I'm still trying to get on my feet, as it were, after the hurricane and its aftermath. (We are, for instance, coming toward the end of our third semester this calendar year, so we haven't had a real break since before the storm and won't get one until summer.) Still, I'm getting started again on revising some old work, and to do that I'm beginning by reading (or in some cases rereading) what others have written in related areas. That kind of work is combined with close attention to whatever my sources are, which would vary according to the type of work I'm doing: for a study I'm doing of music related to Louis d'Anjou, I'm looking back at documents (either documents I've studied directly or those reported in published materials) and the texts (also music, but here mostly texts) of musical works connected with him by other scholars or that I'd like to connect with him. For another essay I need to update, on a group of motets with tenor lines taken from secular songs, I will be focusing much more on musical matters, including form, texture, and other aspects of style as they change from the thirteenth to the fourteenth century. That combination of studying music in close detail and studying texts and documents is common, and most of us probably do to some extent alternate between the two kinds of focus.
What other disciplines must you master to be considered an "expert" on your topic?
Thor Ewing: Archaeology, Literature and Language, Art History.
Henk tJong: I'm an expert on many topics. As an artist and illustrator I have experimented with tempera and oil painting on panel and vellum, as a graphic-designer I am a professional calligrapher who's able to write several types of medieval and later hands with the quill or feather-pen on paper as well as parchment. I have been a practicing heraldist since 1975 and have specialised in medieval heraldry since 1978 (incluiding the study and catalogueing of medieval seals) and of course I can read medieval script, which comes in handy during my studies in medieval history at the University of Leiden since 2003. I was present and sometimes helped at building replica's of medieval houses in Archeon. I have studied medieval interiors, furniture and household utensils and described their use for re-enacters and living history groups after having used them myself in Archeon (experimental archaeology). This study also included an in-depth research project on what could be found around 14th and 15th c Dutch houses in cities as well as villages, the resut of this were used to recreate streets, paths, gardens and fields in Archeon. I have studied medieval dress since the late 70's, made replica clothing and leatherwear by hand myself and have worn it under all kinds of circumstances for about 20 years now. In 1991 I founded the medieval living history society Die Landen van Herwaerts Over (The Hither Lands, in short the LHO) of which I have been the leader for about 6 years. We specifically re-created civil life in different periods, not so much the nobility or knigts. But I have studied medieval weaponry and armour and have worn and used it in battle re-enactments all over Nederland and in Belgium and the UK and especially in a re-creation of the Dordrecht City Militia from around 1300, based on archival and archaeological evidence. I have studied medieval cookery books and have cooked medieval meals (together with my wife, who's the real expert in this) several times in medieval hearths and on open campfires. I have researched the lives of medieval traveling players, their outfits, instruments and music (and my wife and her friends bring this into practice and I have played and sung with them as well). I have lived in replicas of medieval houses, buildings and tents in all climatic circumstances, slept, cooked, ate and worked there. I've made a special study of monastic dress, made several types of habits and worn them as monk in living history events and re-enactments (lately the 2006 re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings, last October 14-15). I have used all this in helping and advising several Dutch musea, castles, cities, film and TV companies and historical writers since 1995. I also know where to find replicas of anything historic (pre 1700) all over the world. That's my job: I'm a historic consultant.
Alice V. Clark: Well, most medieval music (at least most of what got written down) has words, so you need some competence in languages and literary studies, including sometimes aspects of theology. Also, much of the music I deal with can be linked to the time and place it was written, so it's necessary to know something of the history. Many motets are built on fragments of chant, so understanding the liturgy is critical. Also, more narrowly within music, you need to have a basic knowledge of the systems of notation--even though most of the music I work on has been well edited, there are some times you need to deal with how it was written down. That also involves some consideration of paleography and the history of the book in general. The more analytic work I do is informed by the study of music theory, even though the theory studied by undergraduates was mostly developed to deal with much later music; I try not to be overly anachronistic in my approaches, but those theoretical tools, once adapted a bit, can be very useful. Ultimately, I guess, this means you need at least some competence in just about everything!
How do the trends in these areas help you understand the people of that time period?
Thor Ewing: Oh enormously! I think that you need to use every discipline you can to get inside another culture. And for me, that's what it's about.
Henk tJong: What do you mean by trends? The way people look at history through the years? I know for sure that living life in medieval houses or soldier's camps gives you a pretty good idea what it was like during the 14th and 15th century in Nederland. Only these people were used to this kind of life and were perfectly able to lead a comfortable one after the circumstances they found themselves in, while we, because of our pampered lifestyle, have trouble to adapt to living without central heating, showers, gas- or electric cooking. And the media.
Alice V. Clark: As I mentioned, the things that seem foreign to us can help us understand, I think, some things that are important to medieval period, and insights from areas outside my own can help. For instance, one could be confused, even scandalized, by motets that have upper-voice texts in French where the narrator complains about how much he suffers for love over tenors taken from chants for Holy Week, when Jesus is suffering on the Cross. That particular connection happens a number of times, and, while it may be ironic in some cases, in others it isn't. Again, to us that looks very strange indeed, even blasphemous, to mix sacred and secular in that way, but it doesn't look so odd if you've read Bernard of Clairvaux's Sermons on the Song of Songs, with its eroticized language speaking of kissing Jesus.
In all three disciplines--Medieval Cookery, Textiles, Music—what do you think are the biggest misconceptions about these topics?
Thor Ewing: In Cookery, that they used spices to mask the flavour of off meat; in textiles (or at least in my particular area of Viking clothing) that they wore sackcloth and sheepskins; in music . . . harder to say . . . people don't think so much about it . . . I suppose there's the stereotype of waftily chanting monks, and another of the merry minstrel - those are both misconceptions, but not entirely groundless either. More controversially, I could mention the scholarly misconception that song was typically unaccompanied.
Henk tJong: Cookery: large joints of beef, mutton or pork eaten from the bone, heavily spiced to hide the taste of decay, washed down with enormous amounts of weak beer or ale, while showing no table manners at all. Plates were made of stale bread and soup was scooped out of hollows cut into the table. They had no forks, and ate with their hands. Textiles: common medieval people ran around in sackcloth tunics, roughly sewn together with string or leather laces, and the nobility strutted around in silk and velvet, with lace colours, tights and feathers on their hats. And this is the look all through the Middle Ages. Music: you had church music which was Gregorian chants and you had court music which was played by troubadours and minstrels on lutes and harps while singing boring songs about courtly love. And then there were the strolling musicians dressed in rags, dirty, lecherous and thievish who played on fiddles and bagpipes and sang dirty songs (which they did!).
Alice V. Clark: I'm not sure medieval music is known well enough to have misconceptions about it! In the movies, for instance, you almost inevitably hear modern music, or at best sixteenth-century dances, so most people probably have almost no idea what medieval music even sounds like. I suppose the one exception is chant, and there the misconception would be that all chant sounds the same and functions as a kind of sonic wallpaper. There actually are many different types of chant, but those differences are hard for us modern westerners to hear, because they seem practically nonexistent compared to the huge difference between chant, which is monophonic (i.e., having a single melodic line without accompaniment), and the music we hear elsewhere, which is almost entirely homophonic (melody plus accompaniment) or polyphonic (more than one melody at once). We lost some of our ability to hear melodic nuance when we gained harmony--I'm not complaining, but it takes some focused listening sometimes to hear those differences in chant. The other misconception is that chant is background music: in the middle ages it was absolutely central to the liturgy, and so it was first and foremost functional music. Here too our modern world has complicated things, because since the nineteenth century we have valued "art" music over functional music, and we have forgotten that nearly all music before that time wasn't meant for the kind of sustained listening we do at concerts. In fact, chant often would have no audience at all: the congregation, the choir, and the community are all the same thing in a monastery.
Why is it important to know about these things?
Thor Ewing: Of course you can say of anything that it is unimportant . . . but without getting metaphysical, I think that it really depends on how much you are able to empathise with people you have never met. If you 'get it', they can be as important to you as the people you meet on a day-to-day basis - sometimes even more so. And if they are important to you, then that's that. And also, by getting inside another culture, you get a perspective on the culture around you.
Henk tJong: You mean: why all of the above was not the case? Well, I suppose it's better to find out what people really were like and how they really lived their lives, then to go on and on with these same boring old cliches. On the other hand: as long as Hollywood or tv series based on this American view of history go on spreading them, even to the fact that they are taught in school or are taken up and used by historical writers, I have a feeling we're fighting an uphill struggle.
How has your research in these areas helped your specialty?
Thor Ewing: Oh! I think I mistook your last question. Well, we have to know about the various sources of evidence simply because they are very often crucial to understanding the subject. If a single shred of evidence from one discipline seriously challenges the evidence of another, then one has to work out a plausible solution. I say plausible - we're always waiting to see what the archaeologists will turn up next, which might overturn our carefully wrought theorizing.
Henk tJong: I'd like to think it has given me a rather all-embracing and sometimes quite realistic view of medieval man and his doings. And it helps me doing my job well.
Alice V. Clark: I'm not sure how to answer this, since my specialty is research. I suppose I can say that my research has helped my teaching, because it has made me a more informed consumer of scholarship even in areas where I don't actively work, and my teaching has helped my research, because it has helped me communicate more clearly and think about why what I do matters. Similarly, my work as a medievalist has helped me as a musicologist, and vice versa.
On Medieval Cookery: What is important to know about the people of that era before delving into their recipes?
Thor Ewing: As you know, this isn't my main specialism, but I have looked into the sources for Anglo-Saxon food in some detail. In the light of this, I'd say the most important thing to remember is that recipes might have foreign sources, and might not reflect what people were actually eating at all. I think that this is possibly at its most extreme in the case of Anglo-Saxon recipes, but I should also mention a fifteenth-century recipe for Buttered Worts, which has an instruction along the lines of 'put no oats thereto', which tells us more about cooks' traditions than all the rest of the recipe can.
Henk tJong: That they lived from what nature gave them through the year and that they did a pretty good job in adapting their diet to that and made it go a long way out of season as well.
On Textiles: Besides paintings, are there many surviving examples of actual clothing from the era roughly between 500 and 1500 AD?
Thor Ewing: Yes, indeed. There's a wonderful collection from Greenland which had been preserved in the permafrost. There are also scattered examples all over Europe of garments which, for one reason or another, have been preserved. In Viking clothes, there are mainly fragments, but a remarkably complete linen shirt was excavated in Denmark in the 1980's.
Henk tJong: I'd like to say: far too few. But then: clothing construction has been pretty conservative all through the Middle Ages and for the few times 'fashion' took a leap, we have a few examples to teach us how these new clothing types were put together. Which does not mean, unfortunately, that we have no questions left to be answered.
On Music: How have medieval trends in music influenced contemporary music?
Thor Ewing: Well, there is some influence on some of the contemporary 'Classical' composers. But I don't see much direct influence on mainstream popular music. Nevertheless, music is a continuous tradition, and it is impossible not to show the influence of the past.
Henk tJong: I have no idea, not being knowledgeable about contemporary music. And if you mean rock and roll and everything that came after that; the people of the Middle Ages introduced a couple of instruments which in adapted shape and with added electricity are still being played.
Alice V. Clark: Aside from the way that all music has built to some degree on what came before, you really can say that a number of composers in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have consciously turned to medieval ideas in their work. Some, like Peter Maxwell Davies, use chant or other medieval music overtly, while others borrow principles more indirectly, such as the use of a repeated rhythmic pattern as a structural device. The minimalist composer Steve Reich has also said that Notre-Dame polyphony was one of his influences (along with Indonesian gamelan music, Ghanaian drumming, and Hebrew cantillation). Several scholars have also looked at how medieval music has influenced heavy metal. Then there's the chant craze of a few years back, when at least one form of medieval music became contemporary music in its own right.
Thor Ewing: Yes, I play instruments of the Early Middle Ages – lyre, bone flute, hornpipe, syrinx (panpipes) and long-necked lute. I’m not as good as I might be at all of them (I really don’t get on with the syrinx), but they all have something to teach us about the musical culture of the age. I also play some later instruments, and have even been known to play some which are quite modern!
Henk tJong: I play percussion and flutes, I have played a medieval drum, and yes, I think it is useful to have played in a music group which specialises in medieval music to understand more about it. But I was impressed by medieval music long before I ever played or sang a medieval note.
Alice V. Clark: I played the viola growing up but gave it up before finishing college. In grad school and more recently I've played the viola da gamba, a stringed instrument used in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, but I currently don't own an instrument and don't have folks to play with here. I also am a decent church-choir alto and can bang out some things on the piano, which is useful in the classroom. Of course, none of those things (except singing) is medieval. I did play a little vielle (another bowed string) in graduate school, but not too much. The broader question is a little tricky. We make it clear to our students that it is important to be able to perform, to analyze music, to know its history, and so forth, whether one is training to become a performer, a teacher, a scholar, a therapist, or whatever--that's how the U. S. university system works. (It's very different, by the way, in England and elsewhere.) It was important for me to have that performing background as a musicologist, even if I don't perform now--but I'm less certain it is important for me to have a specifically medieval performing record. Besides, as I said before, most of the medieval music that survives is vocal music, so playing an instrument isn't necessary. I suppose I'd have to say that what limited performing experience I have with medieval music has been valuable, and it'd be nice to have more, but it's not utterly essential to be a practicing performer. Besides, while I do miss playing viols, it's really not possible to keep up professional standards given everything else that I do. As I write this, I'm reminded of what Aristotle and others say on the subject for their young men: it's important to be able to play and sing well enough to be able to judge, but they shouldn't work to achieve a higher standard than that, because professional performance is for those of a lower class, not the upper echelon of society Aristotle was training. I'd drop the classist part, but maybe I'd agree that, while I needed the training as a performer as part of my development as a musician, professional performance is for others who are more suited for it. Similarly, prospective performers need some training in music history, but they don't need to take it to a professional level.
What is your favorite piece of music from this era? Do you have recommendations of music, players/groups?
Thor Ewing: I really couldn't choose a single piece of music. Partly because, like any musical style, one has to 'get into it' before individual pieces stand out. Partly because so much depends on the interpretation of the performers. I do, of course, have favourite composers, and there are composers who just don't do it for me. But one piece for the entire Middle Ages? No. What I might recommend would be Machaut and Dufay - both intricate and fascinating, but, especially with Dufay, accessible. And I love some of the earlier stuff. The sense of melody is, I think, far in advance of later works. It seems that when you develop a richer harmonic tradition, melodic subtelty is bound to suffer. There are some superb melodies from the troubadours, trouveres and minnesingers, which have all the sinuous poise of an Indian raga. When it comes to particular players and groups, I can't skip over Gothic Voices (though I don't agree with everything that Christopher Page has written), or for sheer contrast, Sinfonye (especially their first album with Mara Kiek). I perform in a couple of bands, Mandrake! (www.mandrakemusic.co.uk) which plays at carnivals and festivals, and Squeake's Noyse (www.squeake.co.uk) which plays for banquets and history fairs; neither of them is especially serious, but we do do some more serious stuff too - we have a programme of Cantigas de S. Maria with a group called Gaita from Scotland and we have done a few concerts with this. I can also thoroughly recommend my wife's band Misericordia (www.misericordiamusic.co.uk).
Henk tJong: I'm hesitating between Walter von der Vogelweides Unter der linde (ca 1200) or Alouette, voghel cleyn by Jan Moritoen (ca 1400) as sung by Wronghel & Wei (www.wronghelenwei.nl). They just finished their first CD and are a perfect example of a boisterous strolling group playing in between the public, but they still sing beautifully as well. All natural voices, no schooled ones, which I hate.
Alice V. Clark: For pure sonic pleasure, probably the big four-part organum settings of the chants "Sederunt principes" and "Viderunt omnes" by Perotin, perhaps best performed by the Hilliard Ensemble on their CD "Perotin." Machaut's motet 8 is his most popular today, and one of the most popular in his own time as well; it and other motets by Machaut have recently been recorded both by Hilliard and by a group called Liber unUsualis, and there's a fairly recent recording by the Clerks' Group as well, which also includes some of the many anonymous works of the time. The Orlando Consort has a nice CD as well of motets associated with Machaut's contemporary, the composer, poet, theorist, clerk, and bishop Philippe de Vitry. Gothic Voices and the Ensemble Gilles Binchois are other groups that do consistently good work, and Sequentia has by now recorded all or nearly all of the wonderful chant by Hildegard of Bingen. I'd recommend just about anything by any of these groups.
On Cooking: What is your favorite medieval dish? What is the most complicated you have come across?
Henk tJong: Beef stew with prunes and spices is my favourite. The most complicated was uneatable: something with meat in fish jelly and spices. Shudder!!!!
How and why have tastes changed from then to now?
Thor Ewing: Modern tastes are extremely diverse. Until the mid twentieth century, one could generalise about Western European tastes to some degree, and American tastes were not dissimilar. But now, with a choice of Indian, Chinese, Thai, French, British, Italian and Polish foods easily accessible where I live on the Welsh border in the heart of the countryside, it is difficult to say what modern tastes are. Likewise, when we talk about medieval tastes, we have to remember that different classes might have eaten very differently.
Henk tJong: This is a question that cannot be answered. Most recipes and the reconstructions that are made from them are very nice indeed. A lot of the common foods must have been quite organic and very tasty, but to ask oneself if people then found them more appetising than we do now is nonsense. If you ask, and you do ;-).
On Textiles: Do you yourself sew? Have you tried to replicate some of the clothing of the era?
Thor Ewing: I do sew. However, I don't use this to best effect for making clothes. I'm interested in testing out ideas, but once I see whether they are going to work or not I tend to lose interest, and need to be encouraged to complete the task. Henk tJong: Yes I sew myself. I have made a few garments completely by hand and finished all visible seams by hand in the rest of them. At the last count I had about 20 complete costumes, including monk's habits, dating from the 9th to the early 16th century, via the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries.
How did combat/war effect cookery, clothing, music?
Thor Ewing: In clothing, the doublet was probably originally a military garment designed for use under armour, but it seems to have been adopted as standard wear by knights in the fourteenth century, and came to dominate thereafter. I think that without this historical fashion, we would not be wearing jackets and ties in the office today.
Henk tJong: Interesting question, but very hard to answer. It's a very broad subject as well. The crusades, as we all know, had their effect on the import of spices and influence on some recipes, while they also introduced feminine long clothing by aristocratic men during the 12th century, as churchmen of the time do not tire of telling us. There are also eastern musical instruments and (texts of) songs that came to western Europe. On the other hand wars closer by did have effect on crops or the amount of people available for getting them in, with probably effect on the diet of the region. We also know that the tight and short pourpoint or arming jacket that went under the plate-armour of the mid 14th century was imitated for civil dress by young nobles or rich merchant's sons, with notable effect on fashion from that era onwards. Lastly, songs of war or about deeds of heroism during battles were played and sung all over Europe during the Middle Ages. So, yes, cookery, clothing and music were influenced by war and/or combat, but of course they were by no means the only influences on them.
Alice V. Clark: Medieval composers and the kinds of musicians who performed composed music tended to be out of the direct line of fire, though they were obviously effected by war and sometimes composed music that makes reference to the conflicts surrounding them. Instrumentalists, whether trumpet players (who also often served as heralds) or minstrels (who were often on the road) were more vulnerable, but their lower social status means that we know less about them, and their music tended not to get written down. Actually, war, or at least the diplomatic aspects of conflict, sometimes (and rather perversely) had a positive effect on music, by bringing together nobles and churchmen from different places. By the late middle ages and early modern period, those nobles and church leaders would often have chapel establishments, which means that musicians travelled with them to the church councils and treaty negotiations that happened so often during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. As a result, stylistic influences become more common at that time, as French composers hear English and Italian music more than ever before, leading to the shift toward what some call an "international style" that takes place in the time of Du Fay and Binchois.
If you could travel through time to any time and place, where would you go and why?
Thor Ewing: Wherever I went, I'd go there for the music. But it'd have to be somewhere that I could speak the language!
Henk tJong: Definetely early 14th century Dordrecht, my hometown, just to see if my reconstructions and my visions and dreams of the look of its buildings and people are compatible with the real thing.
Alice V. Clark: This is hard. Clearly I'd want to see Paris in the fourteenth century, and I'd want meet Machaut and Vitry, as well as their mostly anonymous contemporaries. If you're holding it completely open, though, I'd also want to go to Elizabethan England, and I'd want to meet the eighteenth-century composer Franz Joseph Haydn, who, judging by his music at least, must have been fun. I'm sure there are other times and places I'd want to visit as well.
Thor Ewing: I pursue my interest outside any of the conventional careers, but it is still my only source of income. If I weren't interested in this, I'd probably be significantly richer . . . financially that is.
Henk tJong: I've been combining my work with medieval history since I left school in 1968. The jobs in the town-archives since 1978, Archeon since 1991 and tScapreel since 1996; they've all been flooded with things medieval. So, yes, it surely has affected my life. I am a historic consultant with the Middle Ages as my favourite period, and in a few years I may call myself a real historian. Who knows what the future will bring: more research, more studies, more writing, perhaps even a bit of teaching or publishing books. But also see www.scapreel.nl.
Alice V. Clark: I've pretty much answered this, I think: I teach for a living, and my research is a part of the job, both directly and indirectly. Given the state of the academic job market, there was at one time (actually several times) a chance that I wouldn't get a teaching job, though, and I was thinking seriously about other career paths, in which case I hope I would have kept up at least some level of research.
Is there anything you would like to add that I did not ask you?
Thor Ewing: Not really. There's always more to say, but it needs questions to unlock it. I'd say that's my motivation. If I see a question which everyone else has overlooked, or when they always trot out the same old answer, that's when I get interested.
Henk tJong: My favourite colour? ;-) BTW it's cognac (which is a brownish-orange).
Alice V. Clark: Not that I can think of--these questions have been pretty comprehensive, I think. Of course, it's Friday evening and I'm fairly brain-dead, so I could have missed something--let me know if you need anything else.
Many thanks to Thor, Henk, and Alice. Gives me the itch to sneak off to an archive somewhere.