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From the 16th to the 18th century the lute dominated the attention of European musicians, who cared little for the early guitar. Composers and musicians of the time held the tone and versatility of the lute in the highest esteem, while largely ignoring the guitar due to the relative simplicity of the existing repertoire. By the 19th century, however, the guitar had become extremely popular while the lute had disappeared almost entirely. The socioeconomic background of Europe played a key role in the fate of these two instruments; in particular, the growing economic power of the newly emergent middle class was decisive in determining the rise and fall of the guitar and lute, respectively. This presentation will compare and analyze the cultural and aesthetic antecedents that led to the acceptance of the guitar and the retrospective difficulties the European middle class had with the lute. Drawing connections between the evolving musical aesthetic and the social and economic climate of a particular period is an important undertaking as it serves to not only broaden the understanding of music and its’ history, but also to provide a unique insight into society at that time.
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