Fear me and my fipple

It may be apparent, from all the little snippets of wild and wacky information I’m coming across, that I’m doing research at the moment.  Previously I’ve tended to think “nobody could be interested in this stuff.  Just put the book down and walk away.”  But this time around, I thought it might be fun to share some of it.  So, here I am discovering that, according to the Anglo-Saxons, my newfound ability to play the whistle may come with unexpected side effects.

From this website http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~cpercy/courses/1001Lovett.htm

Since they were similar by nature, musica instrumentalis could exert sympathetic influence over a listener by appealing to musica humana, his own physical music, both emotional and physiological. According to this system of influence, the type of music played could exert specific physical and emotional responses. Soft sounding instruments were played to encourage sleep, and faster songs and dances to promote physical vigor… The musical performance in each of the above examples is a meaningful event, and intended to have a very specific effect beyond its value as entertainment. Along with the beneficial potential of music came the threat that a musician would play intervals calculated to rob the listener of his or her rational ability, leaving the listener vulnerable to the devil’s temptation. Despite sounding somewhat fanciful to modern individuals, music’s practical, physical and moral influence was treated very seriously in the middle ages.

Members of the clergy often suspected music’s persuasive powers of demonic origin, especially when attempts were made to influence the natural world through secular musical acts. As a result, instructions were written outlining punishments for the practice of sinful superstitions. An example of this is found in the latin Indiculus Superstitionum , which forbids the playing of wind instruments to influence the weather or the passing of an eclipse. (Griffiths, 100)

Damn!  I’ll have to give up my plan of plunging the world into darkness by playing my pennywhistle after all.  I guess I’ll have to settle for disturbing my listeners’ reason and making them run around with their fingers in their ears shouting “Argh! No! Stoppit!” instead.


Comments (4)

MarionAugust 10th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

And if they object, just tell them to “Fipple Off!”

Alex BeecroftAugust 10th, 2011 at 6:17 pm

*g* “Chiff off!” is just perfect – I think I might use that instead (see the Chiff and Fipple website for context http://www.chiffandfipple.com/ ) :)

Sal DavisAugust 15th, 2011 at 10:50 pm

I just LOVE this kid’s face:

Members of the clergy often suspected music’s persuasive powers of demonic origin

I wrote 95k words of novel once using that idea to explain why the Welsh have Eisteddfods. Music is dangerous, it has to be tamed. I still haven’t figured out what a chiff or a fipple is, unless they are onomatopaeias?

alex_beecroftAugust 15th, 2011 at 11:33 pm

I know how he feels :) I’m on holiday this week and have found it hard to practice – it’s almost as frustrating as not being able to write.

*G* Unfortunately the taming seems to lead to it becoming irrelevant I think that’s the problem with most pop music too.

The fipple is the block in the mouthpiece that directs the air over the blade to make the noise, and chiff is the quality of the sound. If I’m understanding it right the more chiff it has, the more breathy it is.

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