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 (

The Fourth Annual Representations of Early Music on Stage and Screen (REMOSS) Conference: Music and Medievalism

The REMOSS study group will hold its fourth annual conference at the University of Edinburgh on 15-16 June 2018.

REMOSS’s previous activities have been largely focussed on the use of early music in stage and screen contexts; this conference hopes to widen that perspective turning its focus towards ‘medievalism’ as a methodological and aesthetic lens through which to further interrogate those themes.

The conference committee would particularly welcome proposals on themes of ‘Global Medievalisms’ and Cross-media/intermedia Medievalism’; however, all proposals and contributions will be considered. As ever, our conception of ‘early music’ is a broad one, including the use, or re-use, of ‘real’ early music in contexts new and old, historically informed performance, and modern music drawing on medieval themes and structures. We are also interested in alternative and global traditions of ‘early’ music, as well as imagined or invented ones.

Proposal for papers, workshops, demonstrations, lecture-recitals, and panels are solicited by February 16 2018. Please send a proposal of c.200 words including the session/paper format, the names and affiliations of any speakers, and contact details for the proposer, to If you have any questions about the conference, feel free to contact any of the organisers. To register as an attendee, follow this link:  Sign-up for our jiscmail newsletter at: REMOSS@JISCMAIL.AC.UK

Conference attendance will be free. Digital presentations will be available for speakers who cannot attend in person and, as always, the event will be live-streamed for those who wish to attend digitally.

Dr James Cook, University of Edinburgh (

Dr Alex Kolassa, Royal Holloway, University of London (

Dr Alex Robinson, Paris-Sorbonne University (

Dr Adam Whittaker, Birmingham City University (

Musical Culture in the Wars of Religion, 1550-1650


Conference Dates:

17-18 March 2018



St Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge

Trumpington Street





Edward Wickham, Tom Hamilton, Alex Robinson

Conference Description

Talks by:

Peter Bennett (Case Western Reserve), Marie-Alexis Colin (Brussels), Tom Hamilton (Cambridge), Kat Hill (Birkbeck), Melinda Latour (Tufts), David van der Linden (Groningen), Margaret McGowan (Sussex), Emilie Murphy (York), David Potter (Kent), Alex Robinson (Cambridge), John Romey (Case Western Reserve), Daniel Trocmé Latter (Cambridge),

and featuring a lecture-recital by Edward Wickham (Cambridge) and the Choir of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge on Claude Le Jeune’s Dodecacorde (1598).


Conference Outline:


Music was a crucial battleground during the age of the Wars of Religion. In spite of this, historians and musicologists have rarely combined their approaches to try and understand the full significance that music had in the civil wars. Historians, for example, have primarily studied how music shaped confessional identities, such as when Protestants sang the Psalms together in worship or on the battlefield to express their solidarity and take comfort in their faith (despite the threat of persecution). Musicologists, on the other hand, have tended to concentrate on the most important composers from this time (such as Eustache Du Caurroy or Pierre Guédron), the genres in which they wrote (like ballets or airs de cour), or certain issues arising from the performance of this repertoire.

This conference brings together historians and musicologists with the aim of overcoming the boundaries that still remain between these scholarly disciplines. It focuses on the various contexts within which music was used and considers its impact in the Wars of Religion. Who sang music and for what aims? What was the relationship (if any) between the performance of music in elite circles versus the use of this art form among the wider public? Did music solidify or traverse confessional divisions? Lastly, how far can modern performers recreate the soundscapes of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?

Treating the age of the Wars of Religion across a whole century (1550-1650) and using France as a focal point for making wider comparisons, this conference will comprise twelve papers given by speakers from the UK, continental Europe and the USA. These papers will explore the role of music across all sectors of society, from the royal courts to the city streets, as well as from both Protestant and Catholic perspectives; in addition, they will demonstrate how people from both sides of the confessional divide engaged with a common musical tradition. The Psalms, in particular, could be sung to express a desire for peace as well as continued religious war.

Alongside the twelve papers, the conference will include a public lecture-recital of Claude Le Jeune’s Dodecacorde (1598) given by Edward Wickham and the choir of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. Le Jeune’s career and compositions perfectly encapsulate the themes of this conference. As a protestant sympathiser during the early phase of the civil wars, he was also associated with the Catholic Académie de musique et de poésie at the royal court in the 1570s, and he later served as a musician in the household of Henri IV (1589-1610). Le Jeune moved between Protestant and Catholic circles, travelled across France, and mixed with the highest levels of courtly society; in addition, he composed major (and still oft-neglected) pieces that combine confessional solidarity with a desire for peace after decades of bloody civil war.

For more information on this event, and to book tickets, see