Vermeer Tunes

February 9th, 2009
music

Traditional Music in the Time of Vermeer
by Adelheid Rech

Why a study of Dutch 17th c. folk music on a Vermeer site?

Perhaps too often the sublime order and technical perfection of Vermeer’s compositions lure us into forgetting that the artist was brought up in a tavern run by his no-frills, hard-working father. In Dutch taverns, brawls, business deals, cursing and serious drinking went on from sunrise until late night.  Every now and then, a knife was pulled (as the saying goes “one hundred Dutchmen, one hundred knives”).

But taverns were also scenes of harmless entertainment and  joyfully congregation with plenty of music.

Thus, a conspicuous slice of the artist’s  life never found its way into his paintings, a life jam-packed with popular religious and secular festivities, riotous gatherings, joyous marriages and solemn processions that marked the passage of the year each with its own music.  No, not the music you would expect to issue from any of Vermeer’s dreamlike compositions, but simple, infectious melodies, true “hits” of the moment which were spread by itinerant musicians. These tunes charmed lovers, delighted children and made the grueling toil of daily life a bit more bearable.

This multi-part study explores hurdy-gurdys, shawms and rommelpots and other instruments you most likely  never knew much less heard.

So have a peek and take listen to the musical world behind the the paintings you know so well.

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