One Hand Clapping
The idea of a “one-man band” has been around, and implemented, since the Middle Ages. Obviously, then it was intended as a novelty, a display of mechanical ingenuity, resourcefulness, and musical skill. But it has to be said that when it comes to music performance that is not intended specifically as a solo, the whole point is playing with other musicians.
Music has always been a collaborative art. We probably think we had seen the height of this with improvisatory jazz in the earlier decades of the 20th Century. But in reality, musician’s playing “off” of one another goes back to the very beginning of secular music where very little was actually written down and most music was performed “by ear.” Musicians knew by heart snippets of melodies and would, when they got together as a group, improvise around these snippets. Music had to evolve quite a bit before harmony was even thought of as something to add to the mix. Suffice it to say, paying attention to what others in your “band” were playing, or singing, was a pretty important part of what music was about.