Thursday, March 25, 2010

Egality, sorority

There's a thriving internet mailing list dedicated to the lute. Based at Dartmouth, an Ivy League university in New Hampshire, it hosts lively discussions between lute enthusiasts around the world. It's friendly and egalitarian, and all are welcome.

But I noticed something strange a few months ago, and I posed the question: "Of the last 100 individuals to post to this list, 95 were men. Is this representative of the wider lute world? Any ideas why?". Lots of replies, lots of theories, including some anxious denials from men that any sort of discrimination existed. Most plausible, I think, is that the huge male bias in the guitar world (and why is that?) finds a reflection in the lute world. And, as one woman pointed out, larger hands help too.

It's not just that internet mailing lists have a male bias, although this may be true. A recent meeting of the Lute Society in London was at least 75% male, and some of the other 25% had been dragged along by their partners.

It wasn't always so. The excellent Thomas Mace, in Musick's Monument (1676) rebuts a number of 'False and Ignorant Out-cries against the Lute', including this one:

The Fifth Aspersion is, That it is a Woman's Instrument.

To which he stoutly answers:
If this were True, I cannot understand why It should suffer any Disparagement for that; but rather that It should have the more Reputation and Honour.

Good on you, Thomas.

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