CHAPTER 3: History to 1800 > Early Renaissance - 15th century

Summary - 2 of 2

Yet another correlation suggested this fascinating hypothesis; that the physical attitude in which an instrumentalist was portrayed might be a reflection of the basic philosophy of his age.

Thus, the mediaeval preoccupation with the life eternal, as being of more consequence than the life of this world, may be seen reflected in the way a large majority of psaltery players are looking upwards, outwards and away from their instruments.

Renaissance humanism was largely a concern for the life on earth, a conviction that it was the present that was important, and a philosophy of introspection, one culmination of which was the Protestant church movement (48); this introspection is certainly reflected in the attitude of many 15thcentury dulcimer players, who are looking carefully at their instruments to ensure that they hit the right notes with their new-fangled hammers.

There are many points which would need exploring before this hypothesis could be confirmed or denied: in particular the extent to which the same is true of other instruments, and the question of whether or not psalteries really were held against the chest - the player totally 'blind' to the strings - or whether this was simply a mediaeval style of portraying angel-players as they glorified the Deity. Some of the players look distinctly uncomfortable as they struggle to support their instrument in the crooks of their arms, plucking at the same time, but there are somewhat similar stances adopted by today's gusli players (fig.255 ) and according to Marcuse (169), such were also used for qanuns in the Middle Ages. The folk-music style of playing autoharp in America features the same hold.