By Tess Knighton
On Thursday 4 December 2014 I atended the first of two talks by Carles Vela on the theme of La regulació municipal de la vida urbana: Barcelona s.XIV-XVI. This first talk was entitled ‘Ordenaron los consellers e prohòmens de la dita ciutat. La capacitat de Barcelona d’organitzar la seva vida quotidiana’ and dealt primarily with the ‘bans’ or ‘crides’ ordered by the municipal councillors concerning various aspects of daily life in the city, including weights and measurements of merchandise, matters of urban subsistence such as cleanliness, provisions, distribution of wáter, as well as questions of law and order and urban customs relating to gaming, minority religions and so on. These cries, which follow a standard format, are preserved in the historical archive of the city; most involved a town crier or herald, and a number of trumpeters (generally one or two, usually employed by the city). This brought to mind Ken Kreitner’s magnificent thesis on music in fifteenth-century Barcelona, and also Gretchen Peters’ great work on French cities, in particular her most recent book The Musical Sounds of French Medieval Cities (CUP, 2012). The performative aspect that formed an integral part of the process of municipal regulation was not discussed in Carles Vela’s excellent talk, but it did clarify the official mechanisms and administrative process through which all new regulations passed, as well as the structure of these documents, which begin with the exhortation ‘Ara hoiats’ (Hear ye, hear ye). The sounds of these cries, accompanied by the trumpet fanfares that drew the attention of the citizens, must have formed a familiar part of the urban soundworld. The examples given by Carles Vela of the content of such cries concerned the purity, or rather the adulteration of wax, and of spices such as saffron, pepper, ginger, etc. Any substance found to be impure would be burnt and the purveyor fined (TK 5/12/2014).