Music and Disruptive Pasts: Between the Popular and the Arcane

Music and Disruptive Pasts: Between the Popular and the Arcane

The Open University, Milton Keynes

21/22 August 2019

The past is not mere history. In the creative imagination it is, indeed, a fractious and disruptive place where the atemporal logics of anachronism govern, and strict chronological narratives peculiar to the modern period become suspended. More than a bygone space there simply to learn from, the past has a life of its own, in turn refracting and transforming our present and colouring and informing (perhaps, even, delaying) the future.

There is a growing recognition of this fact: diverse fields operating under such rubrics as ‘medievalism’ or ‘hauntology’ are providing tools to better express and understand the ways in which past(s) and present(s) interact. Particularly striking is the contemporaneity of such endeavours: the radical elision of a then and a now is so often a characteristic of media, theory, and artwork (and more) that is New—technologically, socially, and otherwise. The role of music here is particularly elusive, and it is at the limits of authenticity, of notions of past and of present, and of the arcane and the popular (high and low)—centre and periphery—that it is most enigmatic.

The REMOSS (Representations of Early Music on Stage and Screen) study group, whose previous work has examined the popular (re-)representations of early music in the present seeks to expand its purview to broach broader questions of how music operates in a (new) media landscape where the past figures prominently and in a transformational way. We are interested in how music works ambiguously with (and against) history in film, television, and videogame, in the concert hall, stage, and museum space, and in domains ‘highbrow’ and ‘lowbrow (and neither), be that to reinforce or subvert artistic practice, historiography, and creative imagination—new and old. In addition to our on-going interest in representations of early music and historically informed performance we are particularly interested in the role of music, the past, and

  • Medievalism
  • Hauntology
  • Historic soundscapes
  • Sound and immersion
  • Period settings outside of the Middle Ages (antiquity, nineteenth century, etc.)
  • Steampunk
  • Politics and national identities
  • Popular music, art music, and the spaces between
  • Gothic and other subcultures
  • Gender, sexuality, and the body
  • Whiteness and extremist ideologies
  • Representations of race

In addition to papers in the traditional format (20 minutes, plus 10 minutes questions) we welcome proposals for alternative formats, including but not limited to: pre-circulated papers, workshop and discussion seminars, practice-orientated research, lightning talks, and poster presentations.

Please send proposals (of around 250 words) to, and include details like affiliation and proposed paper/session format. The deadline for proposals is Friday 17 May 2019. For updates about the conference (including details for registration, as well as other invited speakers) please visit, and also follow us on twitter at @REMOSSBrum.

Digital presentations and remote attendance will be available for those unable to attend in person. The conference will also be live streamed, and details of how to access this will be released in due course.

Dr James Cook, University of Edinburgh (

Dr Alexander Kolassa, The Open University (

Dr Alex Robinson, Paris-Sorbonne University (

Dr Adam Whittaker, Birmingham City University (

See also (