Back when I was a child, my mother never had a babysitter for me and my siblings. But she did have an old record player. And in the afternoon, she’d set it up for us along with a stack of records so she’d be able to work in peace for at least a couple of hours in the next room. Though the term “Home Office” wasn’t yet in use, the difficulties experienced by working mothers in such situations were the same as today.
For a long time, our favourite record was “The Bach Family’s Wondrous Journey”. It was a lovingly made children’s introduction to the music of the Bachs that told the tale of this family’s adventures during their stays at various princely courts and their many trips abroad. The narrative centred on the Bach children, Johann Sebastian and his siblings. We got to know the eventual master as a young boy who often preferring playing in the garden to the practice room, who sometimes had an awful time trying to compose, and who played in musical contests against his siblings where the winner got a reward.
What fascinated us most were those parts of the story where the Bachs attempted to obtain princes’ favour and goodwill, to win them as patrons. The idea that someone would provide someone else with a nice room and good food in return for pursuing their art was one that appealed to us a lot, and we would’ve loved to lead such lives ourselves. But these days, the spirit of patronage is dying out. Private grants for artists are more the exception than the rule. Sure, there are still companies that sponsor musical events—but finding an art-loving family who would offer food and board to artists so that they could compose their music, write their books, and rehearse their roles has long since become an illusory hope. Which is quite a shame indeed.