Recently, for reasons I do not entirely understand but which may be related to my fondness for languages and history, I have found myself recently being suggested various music videos that are released under the genre of Bardcore. I had not been familiar with this genre until recently but it did not take me very long to understand the nature of the genre as a whole. I’m not sure why it developed, but it is certainly appealing to hear more contemporary music as well as classic pop and rock songs performed with medieval instrumentation. It adds a certain level of class and one can get a sense of the hook that remains in what is performed. Given the return of the plague to our contemporary consciousness, it makes sense that the Middle Ages would be a touchstone of the way that we feel ourselves nostalgic for at least some parts of an imagined past, if not the horrible sanitary and economic conditions of the time.
So, what are the levels of bardcore? The first level, and what appears to be the most common one, is to cover existing songs while swapping out the instruments to allow only for authentic medieval period instrumentation. Obviously, this means no electrification, but similarly it means a downplaying of percussion and a focus on the strings of lutes or harps as well as the use of various flutes. It is an appealing sound palette overall, at least to me, and what I have listened to of Bardcore I have enjoyed. Those who are slightly more ambitious will add some language that uses thees and thous to make it appear to be like medieval language, or at least something that passes as such. The most extreme bardcore, and thus the most pleasing and impressive to me personally, is the bardcore that seeks to recapture the language of the Middle Ages (or even earlier), whether that be Old or Middle English, Old French, or even classical latin, where the lyrics have been changed to reflect something that would have been present in the age where the song was written.
It is fascinating to me, personally, to see the reimagination of contemporary culture in the language and level of older cultures and sometimes even extinct languages. To create new culture in old ways allows a fascinating recognition of what it would mean to translate something into a different milleu. It offers the chance for an immense amount of creativity while also seeking to reconstruct the past and ponder how it is that our time and the creations of our time could be recontextualized in a way that those in the past could have understood or made sense of it. It adds to the depth of our appreciation to the original song, much like literal videos do , through creating an additional context by which to judge a song, and that is an imagined past where the song could have fit in with the musical styles and approaches of the past, even if only in a fanciful reinterpretation of that past. Sometimes such fancy is enough to enjoy something greater.