Dear Dr. Boli: My cousin the guitar-strummer recently took up the lute, and now she says she’s going to quit her job at the Metro Mart and travel the world with an early-music ensemble. But what I want to know is this: What is “early music”? Is that that stuff the kids listen to at their orgies? And should I be worried about my cousin’s eternal welfare? —Sincerely, Rev. Angus Dour, Minister, John Knox Real No-Foolin’ Presbyterian Church, Trafford.

Dear Sir: You are correct that “early music,” which is commonly taken to mean the Renaissance and Baroque periods, is just about the latest thing in music. This timeline will make its relationship to the overall musical tradition clear:

As for your question about whether your cousin’s eternal welfare is in danger, you should probably not worry unless she begins expressing an interest in the Romantics, in which case you may have legitimate cause for concern.