|How would someone who grew up with the music of Queen, Wham, The Beatles (yet a group my parents had listened to), Culture Club, Depeche Mode or Spandau Ballet, not to mention long forgotten groups like Katchagoogoo (I've even forgotten if their name is spelt like that) discover the joy and beauty of Renaissance Music? And not only the music of the Renaissance but that of the Middle Ages and what else in my language is called "Klassische Musik". Which in its time was not completely different in impact than the number one hits of our times - that is music people listened to eagerly, sung to, shared sheets of - like we do with LPs (when I was a kid and teenager) or CDs, MP3 or with whatever modern technology has come up with.
Well, this someone has always been a passionate reader - only happy when thrown into great stories in preferably huge volumes, as a friend of mine wrote of me in an article for our Abi-Zeitschrift (i.e. the "yearbook" for those that have gladly passed their German equivalent to A-levels). And this urge to read made me discover two large books in hardcover in the city-library, titled "Das Königsspiel" and "Gefahr für die Königin", which I took home, through which I struggled, not understanding much but enjoying them nevertheless, and which made me urge for the following books - as were promised on the dustjacket, and even - for the very first time - made me write to the editors.
Their answer was kind but disappointing: Sorry, no more books translated.
But eventually I found all the books of my beloved Lymond Chronicles, and once again I was doing something for the very first time: tackling some odd-thousand pages in a foreign language.
They above all the other books I had ever read before made me realize that knowing history ("real" history) is not complete with knowing just "facts", but truly comes alive, despite the huge gap of time, when experienced with *all* the senses - how did people actually live in the past, what was the layout of houses back then, how did they dress (and how were their clothes manufactured), what and how did they drink and eat (yes, I hereby confess a love for books about cooking, too, and not only those about Renaissance-cooking), how did they spend their leisure-time, and what does the art of the past reveal to us - the paintings, the language, the code of conduct and manners, the poetry and - the music.
And it started with a funny frog-song, sung in a peaceful private garden, by a mysterious stranger with silken blond hair and long slender hands on a lute, who continued singing this same song some time later in another place yet of a different peacefulness - listened to by two women in the adjoining chamber with a bed with yellow curtains and some more men outside, angry and belligerent.
And it ended - yet did not end - with a lovely love-song, played late at night by a quite artless consort of two recorders, a rebec and a cittern, with rather disastrous effects on a young brown-haired woman, into whose heart the very same lyrics were etched after one breath-taking nightly run across Lyon and a passionate dispute in a dark room with spilt wine in Paris.
And in between there were six huge books rich with a complex story, intriguing characters, difficult psychology, moments that made my eyes overflow with tears, that filled my heart with laughter, left me hilarious and sorrow, that confronted me with men's cruelty and kindness - and that, along with so much else, made me long to hear the beautiful music of Lymond, the French court, Thady Boy Ballagh, Les Amis de Rabelais and all the other gifted musicians in Dorothy Dunnetts works not only in my imagination but with my very ears.
Dorothy Dunnett opened the doors to so much else, but one of those doors led me to discover the wonderful world of music aside the popular music and little classical music I knew back then - she made me seek out whatever I could find of Renaissance music and made me listen to sweet love-songs, enchanting music, roguish and crude songs, music full of gayity and laughter, full of sorrow and pure feelings, by Hans Neusidler, William Byrd,Josquin des Prez, Thomas Morley and many, many more.
Thank you for everything, oh great meddah Dorothy Dunnett!
Doris in Munich