Bardic Arts

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Bardic Arts in the SCA refers to a number of related arts including:

A bard was a professional poet and sometimes a singer as well. The term bard was historically used in the British Isles. In Europe such artists were known by other terms (e.g. minstrel, skald). In the SCA the terms bard and minstrel are often used interchangably.

Bardic Arts within the SCA

Within the SCA, bardic arts are a recognized field of artistic endeavour separate from other, related arts (e.g. poetry, balladry); there are Bardic Arts Laurels, just as there are Poetry Laurels and Balladry Laurels . Medieval artists would have practiced all these arts, but the SCA sets bardic artists apart from other singers, writers and poets.

This separation reflects several very specific differences in emphasis.

First, Bardic Arts emphasize the living culture of the SCA. Songs, poetry and stories may take as their subjects typical medieval subjects; they may also feature descriptions of events and people from the current middle ages.

Second, while there are exceptions to this generalization, many bardic artists in the SCA practice at least two, if not all, the major arts (song, recitation of verse and story-telling) to some degree. As a reflection of the eclectic SCA, Bardic Arts cover a wide range of genres, geographic roots and time periods, so its most successful practitioners tend to be versatile. Many bardic artists would say that the scope for experimentation with new artistic forms is one of the great appeals of Bardic Arts.

Third and possibly most importantly, Bardic Arts essentially is a performance art. While its products can be shared through a variety of recording media (CDs, audio tapes and even YouTube for music, newsletters and web sites for verse or prose text), the greatest impact the Bardic Arts have on the SCA is through live performance. This impact is manifold, including:

  • entertainment;
  • historical ambience at courts and feasts;
  • memesis, the recording of current events, in song, verse and story; and
  • didacticism, the teaching of lessons and drawing of conclusions and morals, especially through citation of positive exemplars.

The didactic function of Bardic Arts is especially important when the need for orientation of new members to the Society and their home Kingdom is considered. The poetry, songs and stories popular within the group culture serve to explain what the SCA does and how it does it in an entertaining way to new participants.

In short, Bardic Arts are an echo of the oral traditions of the medieval, illiterate and proto-literate cultures the SCA re-creates. The emphasis on live performance, the creation of and citation of images of and examples from the current middle ages, serve to build, reinforce and perpetuate our living culture.

As one Ealdormeran bard has been heard to say on numerous occasions: "I have the easiest job in the SCA. All these amazing people do all these incredible things. I just write down what they do and tell other people about them afterwards, in songs or stories or poems."

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