Each era has many different aspects of representation. The Bayeux Tapestry in the Early Middle Ages represents the idea of feudalism in its story of the Song of Roland. The architecture of the Gothic Age is represented on a grand scale in the cathedral of Chartres. The music in the Contemporary era expressed the feelings of society during a time of turmoil and protests. During the course of history, each era has used religion, philosophy, art, architecture, and music to define and document the human experience.
In the Early Middle Ages, after Charlemagne’s rule, a system of landholding and political alliance prevailed in medieval Europe known as feudalism. The feudal nobility encouraged oral literature of war stories and feudal values. The Song of Roland is one of feudalisms greatest war stories, and it is the inspiration for the Bayeux Tapestry. The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered wall hanging that celebrates one of medieval Europe’s most important wars. It illustrates William the Conqueror’s victory of the English at Hastings, a battle that affected English history, language, and religion.
The Bayeux Tapestry is 231 feet long, and embroidered with figures and captions. The tapestry contains information about political events, aspects of the military, social, and cultural history. Military specialists have studied the tapestry to learn more about the armor and war techniques during this time. The tapestry also provides information of the building types and materials utilized. The tapestry is significant due to the story it tells and information it provides of society and culture during the Early Middle Ages.
During the late middle ages, a Gothic awakening was beginning. Christian Europe began separating themselves from traditional life governed by the conservative Church and feudalism. Towns and monasteries began a building program unlike any other in history. Churches were built and remodeled in a new style that emphasized soaring vertical lines, jewel-like stained glass windows, pointed arches, and ribbed vaulted ceilings. The Gothic style accentuated the radiance of light, which symbolized God’s spiritual being.
Although the Chartres Cathedral was not the most daring of the Gothic style, its stained glass and sculpture were the most magnificent. Unlike the Romanesque and Byzantine churches, the walls of the Gothic church are filled with stained glass. The windows contain 22,000 square feet of colored glass that flood the inside with light that signifies God’s mysteries. Each window was a story from the Bible, and illustrated a visual picture for the citizens that could not read. The portals contained a rose window that represented the sun, and the Virgin Mary.
Gothic glassmakers preferred red and blue because it signified the Virgin and gleamed like gems of sapphire and ruby. The design on the outside of the cathedral is incredibly detailed. The sculptures on the north and south doors are more lifelike and animated. Unlike the Romanesque style, the statues of the Gothic style are not attached to the columns, but seem to be standing in front of them. The cathedral at Chartres symbolizes this era’s religious passion and the power and wealth of the Gothic age.
After World War II, society was filled with anxiety and questioning their existence. Artist during the Contemporary age were looking for spiritual meaning. The art of the time would shape the future; however, none of it matched the influence of music. Rock-n-Roll was a style of music that introduced electric guitars and rhythmic drive. These components matched the rebelliousness beginning in the 1950’s. Elvis Presley, heavily influenced by the Africa-American blues style of music, introduced its style to white America. His famous hip swivel was scandalous, and only appeared from the waist up on television.
Eventually American rock and roll made its way overseas. Working class areas were drawn to the excitement of rock and roll, and Britain produced one of the most influential bands of all time, The Beatles. The Beatles set musical trends that are still followed today. They were always experimenting with new sounds and stretching the boundaries of rock and roll. The Beatles were the first band to infuse political awareness in their music. They set the standard for artists to utilize their music for political movements and impact society for decades to come.
The great prophet of protest songs was Bob Dylan. Dylan and other folk singers produced music about civil rights, social injustice, and protests against the Vietnam War. Activists began organizing music festivals that featured bands whose music reflected the social awareness of the time. African-American musicians incorporated the civil rights movements and integration into a new style of music called rhythm and blues. Artists such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Marvin Gaye defined the r & b genre and became known around the world. The ideas and courageousness of these musicians allowed for the evolution of self-expression to be utilized in today’s music.
Throughout the span of time, there has always been an idea that has influenced humanities. Some are pieces of art, like the Bayeux Tapestry, that reflects a story of war from both sides. Others are buildings on a grand scale that represent the Gothic age like the cathedral at Chartres. Art and architecture play a big role in society, but the influence of music in the Contemporary age had an unprecedented impact on social issues. The most interesting thing we can take away is the impression from each era has left on the world today.