Music in the Empire

As I write this (about a week the date this was posted), I’m preparing to go off to Evart later this week—an opportunity I’d not expected to have this year—and so have music on my mind. So today I’d like to tell you about music in the world of the Shine Cycle, even apart from its use in applied metaphysics by bards.

Music is an essential part of daily life in the Shine and Wild Empire, the main country with which the Shine Cycle is concerned. In major cities, hardly anywhere is out of earshot of at least one street musician. Concerts are nearly always well-attended. And making music in groups is a common pastime, even for the rankest of amateurs—hardly anyone is so poor as to not own at least one good-quality musical instrument, at least after the first hints of industrialization began, and even those too poor to own instruments have their voices.

Recorded music, and the devices to play it, has been available in the Empire since less than a decade after the arrival of the Chosen, but for some reason never became popular; neither did radio, television, or any equivalent technology as a pastime. Perhaps some of this is due to the fact that a bard, even untrained or unconscious of this effect, often sends a small thrill through her audience when she performs, but this tends not to come across when a performance is recorded.

But without our world’s system of recorded and telebroadcast music, how do musicians survive? A few are talented and lucky enough to make busking profitable. Composers can sell sheet music. Some musicians make do as in our world, touring and giving concerts in place after place. Some are independently wealthy, or make their living in some other way and perform as a hobby. But many rely on patronage, and it’s expected that those with a certain level of income employ musicians or other artists.

And all of this is ignoring the most consistent occasion for music: the Church. Nearly every service in nearly every denomination includes congregational singing of psalms, hymns, and choruses, and some churches even sing much of their liturgy. Most of the music is provided by amateurs, willingly volunteering their time and talent to lead the singing, help accompany the voices by playing an instrument, or compose new music, but if a somewhat affluent congregation includes an impoverished composer it may commission new liturgical music from him.

In the Empire, music is nearly inescapable.


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