This month, our theme is music, and I’m honored to host Nora Fleischer. Mark your calendars for the next Drollerie Press chat on September 27th at 4 PM Eastern. We always have a ton of fun and usually end up talking about zombies, Muppets, Sting, and everything in between!
(My post will be posted sometime today at Sarah Avery’s livejournal here.)
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I love setting stories in the early twentieth century, partly because I like the popular novelists of the era (dig up The Wall Street Girl, if you can, for a fun read), but mostly because they’re the first generation to be recognizably modern. They have cars, bicycles, and telephones. For the first time, young women get educated and work in jobs that use their education. (They called them New Women.) And, for the first time, people are able to record music.
Recording music must have been a great thing for musicians– can you imagine knowing that your art would disappear as soon as it was completed?– but it might have been even better for the average music lover. Imagine living in a period when hearing good, professional-quality music was a rare treat, not something you could get for free just for snapping on the radio! When if you wanted to hear music, you’d better learn to play an instrument.
Garrett Hathaway, the hero of my novella, Over Her Head, set in 1905, is a huge opera fan, and he treasures his Victrola. What sort of thing might an opera lover in the early 1900s be able to listen to? Here’s a recording from the Library of Congress’s American Memory site: http://memory.loc.gov/mbrs/berl/131113.mp3. The sound quality makes me very happy to have an iPod! But here’s the challenge for me as a novelist– people like Garrett were very proud and excited about all the opportunities that modernity brought to them. I hope, by showing the way Garrett enjoys listening to music, I’m able to convey that excitement to today’s reader.”
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Thanks for hosting me, Joely Sue!
You know, I remember thinking about that before. Before music was recordable, the only music people could listen to was either live or just remembered in their heads from whatever performances they were fortunate enough to attend.
When I was younger my grandmother would regal me with stories of visiting the Opera or seeing a musical on Broadway or band live. She would tell me how much more she enjoyed and treasured music back then because you couldn’t take it with you. You either listened to it at home–on a gramophone or the radio–or listened to it live. There was no ‘recording now to listen to later’ like with cassettes and CD’s.
It was because of my grandma I was into stuff like Swing music and Big Band and Frank Sinatra. Her stories about meeting Sinatra and dancing with granddad at a bunch of his gigs in Jersey–about one time when Sinatra got so confused as to start singing the lyrics from one song while the band played another, or when a band member’s instrument broke quite suddenly in the middle of a set–they made the music seem so much more important I guess.
I have no love for Opera though XD
Oooh, Muppets… durnit, I forgot to put a reminder on my site but will today!
Nora, that’s fascinating*G* my fiance who’s a composer and loves opera has been following this tour, and he thinks this stuff is great. I have one land where the setting’s Victorian Era and the one next door is American/European Colonial, so I’ve been fooling with the questions you asked yourself here too… Fylde will have court musicians and so on, not sure about Germania!
Thanks for this post, Joely.
Nora, I love that you used this time period because it isn’t often done in romance. I really feel you’ve captured the essence of it with their careful manners and propriety. I can’t imagine living in a time when I didn’t have access to all my music! I’d have to have been rich so I can go to all the operas and concertos!
Thanks, everyone, for participating!