Jonathan Soifer in the Onion:
Ever feel like youâ€™re living in the wrong era? Donâ€™t get me wrong, thereâ€™s plenty of stuff I love about today, but Iâ€™ve never been able to shake the feeling that I was born too late. When I look back at the past, I get the sense that I truly belonged in those heady days of peace and love, back between the fall of the Roman Empire and the dawn of the High Middle Ages. Thatâ€™s why, if I could live in any time period, I would definitely choose the 960s.
Something about those wild, revolutionary years really speaks to me. It seemed like everything was going on back then. The frocks looked good, the chants were amazing, and everyone who wasnâ€™t suffering typhoid or acute vitamin deficiencies was just so alive with energy. The 960s just seemed like an electrifying time to be living.
The straight-laced 950s were over but the stirrings of feudalism were only just beginning. Everyone was in this vibrant period of transition between Byzantine autocracy and fealty to large landowners, just trying to discover themselves. For a brief moment you had this optimism that made you feel like you could just stick your thumb out, hop in a passing cart transporting waterfowl, and go. Didnâ€™t even matter whereâ€”youâ€™d just take it easy at the next fiefdom and figure it out. Who was going to tell you no? The king? Edgar the Peaceable was on the throne and he didnâ€™t care. It was a simpler time.
There was just this laid-back, anything-goes culture in the 960s, what with the dissolution of the Carolingian dynasty, and I know I would have fit right in.
Plus, so much of my favorite music came out of 960sâ€”the Gregorian chants, the atonal dirges. Before that, they just had plainsong. But then there was this surge of creativity and monks started adding another part to the chant, and boom, florid organum was born. And the sounds they were able to produce with their lutes and recorders were truly groundbreaking. Forget the crap you hear today; back then they knew how to write real hymns.
Can you imagine what it was like to have been around when Odo of Arezzo broke onto the scene? Or to have actually seen Reginold of EichstÃ¤tt live? It blows my mind that on any given weekend in the Abbey of St. Martial you could have seen St. Tutilo von Gallen, Ademar of Chabannes, or Hucbald. Hucbald! And just think how amazing it would have been to experience that unforgettable summer of 969, when it seemed like everyone gathered on the lea to circle-dance and intone around a communal fire. Yeah, it was muddy, and yeah, the food was almost assuredly rancid and diseased, but so what? Two words: Heriger and Wigbert!
I guess I was just born a few decades and a millennium too late.