Provisional abstract. Some of the most remarkable transitions in the history of public musical taste and expression occur in Europe between the 6th and 14th centuries: a time when considerable transformations in politics and government were parallelled by changing patterns of patronage, putting ancient traditions of court music and poetry at risk of extinction. Considerable repertories of music and verse span the period, as well as the physical remains of musical instruments and architectural spaces. This paper examines public records and accounts of aristocratic households, together with documentary and archaeological evidence for changing acoustical values. It considers especially the sounds of song and its instrumental accompaniment, in politics and diplomacy, both during the later Middle Ages and earlier, as Late Antiquity evolves into the Medieval.  In pondering Lü Bu Wei’s proposition, it considers the complex relationship between a society’s self-image and the various, sometimes indirect, ways in which it expresses its changing moods through its public art, architectures and musics.