Saturday, April 4, 2015

Felicity's Guitar: History of 18th Century Music for Women

Hey followers!

Lute identical to Felicity's
       I recently purchased Felicity's Guitar on Ebay and was able to get it for under $25 (shipping included) so I was pretty happy with that. It is a lower end price. The guitar I bought is the 2nd version so it is not the real wood version. One day I will get the first edition but for now I am happy with this one. In the book Happy Birthday Felicity, she was given this guitar by her grandfather.
        There were many instruments available in the 18th century, but for a woman the selection was limited. A woman had to maintain a certain reputation and I guess most instruments were not considered lady-like. So the approved instruments were the harpsichord and spinet (both similar to the piano), harp, English guitar, bass violin (like a cello) and the Lute. After researching a bit, I have come to the conclusion that Felicity's instrument is probably in fact, a lute.
        Back to the subject of instruments woman were allowed or not allowed to play, I found a hilarious myth. Apparently it was not lady-like to play a flute or a violin because showing your elbows was indecent, but after looking more into it. There is not a lot of evidence to back up that theory. Firstly, there are many dresses made with short sleeves in Georgian times. Another thing is it was know that women would roll up their sleeves when they would work, exposing their elbows.
        So why were the violins considered to be not lady-like? An 18th century woman and music enthusiast named Hester Lynch Piozzi had a theory that she silently admitted in her diary..
"How the Women do shine [in music] of late! . . . Madame Gautherot’s wonderful Execution on the Fiddle; — but say the Critics a Violin is not an Instrument for Ladies to manage, very likely! I remember when they said the same Thing of a Pen."

         Was it true that the men did not want a woman to be better at something than they are? Huh..I guess men have not changed in over 200 years. Ha! Anyways... I also found another quote from an 18th century author named John Essex who's theory is kind of odd if you ask me, he writes..

 “The Harpsicord, Spinnet, Lute and Base Violin, are Instruments most agreeable to the Ladies: There are some others that really are unbecoming the Fair Sex; as the Flute, Violin and Hautboy [oboe]; the last of which is too Manlike, and would look indecent in a woman’s mouth; and the Flute is very improper, as taking away too much of the Juices, which are otherwise more necessarily employ’d, to promote the Appetite, and assist Digestion. Musick is certainly a very great Accomplishment to the Ladies; it refines the Taste, polishes the Mind; and is an Entertainment, without other Views, that preserves them fron the Rust of Idleness, that most pernicious Enemy to Virtue.”  

              So my conclusion on why women were not encouraged to play the violin or flute...Men. It was because of men. Not elbows.
              So I was looking through videos on YouTube for people playing lutes and I was quite impressed. It has such a beautiful and soothing sound. I could probably listen to it all day long. Here is an example of a woman playing a lute. Her version is a renaissance lute. You may have seen this instrument often in movies played in medieval and renaissance times, played by the minstrels and court jesters. I always think about the part in Sleeping Beauty when the minstrel boy kept filling his lute with wine when the kings were not watching.

             Wasn't that a beautiful sound? Well let me wrap this up by telling you quickly about Felicity's Guitar (or Lute?). The original version was made out of real wood. This version is not. It is some sort of wood replacement, feels like the stuff that fake hardwood floors are made of. The back of the guitar is a rounded shape. There are four strings made of a thick plastic, if you strum the strings it sounds sort of like a ukulele. The tuning knobs are non functional and the strap is a pink ribbon (the first version had a burgundy colored ribbon).     

         I hope you have learned something new and interesting in this post! Make sure to follow so you won't miss a single thing! Also follow me on Instagram @Faithful.Friends.Forever.Be 


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