Music, Medievalism, and Modernism: Between Old and New

University of Huddersfield, 27-28 June 2018: In association with the Institute of Musical Research 


Medievalism, or the ongoing (creative and intellectual) interest in the European Medieval past, has long been recognised as a kind of response to industrial modernity. As such, its history is closely related to that of artistic modernism, whose narratives of progress may variously be traced to medievalist movements of the nineteenth century: from the protomodernisms of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the utopian and fantasy socialism of William Morris, to Wagnerian Romanticism, and the neo-gothic literary and architectural revivals.

Nowhere has this association been more frequently demonstrated than in the field of music, where the presence of the distant past has provided a complex and often contradictory wellspring of technical innovations and historical themes, serving diverse aesthetic and ideological aims. From the medieval ritual barbarism of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, to serialist reinventions of medieval compositional technique, in addition to folk music revivals and historical film scoring, musicians and composers have consistently sought to move forward by looking to the past.

This conference hopes to fill a gap in the nascent field of medievalist studies by providing a space for interdisciplinary exchange on the subject of music, modernism, and medievalism. The legacies of medievalism in modernism are numerous and we are interested in reflecting a broad range of perspectives and interpretations. Suggested themes for submissions include, but are not limited to:

  • National representations (e.g. Britain and the Manchester School)
  • Progressive/reactionary medievalisms
  • Medievalism as a site for cross-media collaboration
  • Curating and juxtaposing old and new
  • Scoring medievalism on stage and screen[…]
  • […and in] New media (e.g. videogames)
  • Anachronism and authenticity
  • The ‘authentistic’ modernism of historically informed early music
  • Folk music revivals and progressive rock
  • Neomedieval popular music

We expect papers to be 20 minutes in length allowing for 10 minutes of questions. Proposals involving performance or practice-led research are also welcome; panel proposals will also be considered. In the interests of interdisciplinary exchange, we would like to welcome contributions from across the humanities; perspectives from outside of musicology would be particularly welcome.

It is expected that there will be a small number of bursaries to help promising graduate students to attend this conference. More information on this will follow, but if you have any questions please enquire with the email below.

If you have any questions, please contact Dr Alexander Kolassa at

The official website for the conference can be found at also check our Twitter account for updates at (@ModMusicMed)

The deadline for proposals Friday 16 February 2018

This conference is supported by the Institute of Musical Research.