By the end of the seventeenth century, black trumpeters and kettledrummers were employed at many courts of the Holy Roman Empire as symbols of princely magnificence. Their legal and social position within the court hierarchy, and within German society as a whole, has been debated among historians. According to a commonly held view, black performers who had been bought on the international slave market were considered legally free and fully integrated into German society once they had completed a two-year apprenticeship and entered court service. Membership in the Imperial Trumpeters' and Kettledrummers' Guild (requiring proof of free birth) is usually cited as evidence of their free legal status, social integration into German society, and privileged position at court. Drawing on insights from social, religious, and legal history, history of race, and music sociology, my article reevaluates the notion of the frictionless integration of black trumpeters and drummers into Germany's estate-based society by focusing on two case studies: Christian Real (fl. 1643–74) and Christian Gottlieb (fl. 1675–90). As my study of their little-known yet well-documented careers demonstrates, the social position of these black trumpeters was far more fragile than that of their white colleagues. The tension between their blackness, associated with their previous slave status, and their visible roles as court trumpeters associated with princely power sometimes led to conflict and even physical violence. Both case studies suggest that black trumpeters and drummers were more susceptible to discrimination and violence whenever they moved out of the courtly sphere in which they were privileged and protected.
“Mohr und Trompeter”: Blackness and Social Status in Early Modern Germany
ARNE SPOHR is Associate Professor of Musicology at Bowling Green State University. His research has focused on music in Germany, Britain, and Scandinavia between 1550 and 1750, particularly in relation to cultural exchange and court culture. He is currently working on two monographs, one entitled Concealed Music in Early Modern Pleasure Houses (under contract with Indiana University Press), and one on black trumpeters and kettledrummers in the Holy Roman Empire.
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Arne Spohr; “Mohr und Trompeter”: Blackness and Social Status in Early Modern Germany. Journal of the American Musicological Society 1 December 2019; 72 (3): 613–663. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jams.2019.72.3.613
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