Call for Papers – our fourth conference!

We’re delighted to announce the call for papers for our fourth conference. It will take place at the University of Edinburgh on 15-16 June 2018. See the details below:

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

The REMOSS study group will be holding their fourth annual conference at the University of Edinburgh on June 15-16. 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 (




Conference report – Alex Burns

Alex Burns has written a lovely blog post about our conference from June 2017. We’ve posted it here, but do have a look at the rest of her blog here.


Alex Burns

Dearest readers, something new for you today, a blog on a conference I attended in June which I think you’ll be interested to hear about. ‘Representations of Early Music on Stage and Screen’ (REMOSS) is a small working group of academics from around the UK who put together meetings, talks, conferences and other events:

“Over the last three years, the group has grown in it membership, presented themed sessions at the Medieval and Renaissance Music Conference and the Society of Renaissance Studies Biennial Conference, and is son to have its first volume of essays published with Routledge.” (Taken from the conference booklet).

It just so happened that the 2017 REMOSS conference was being held in Sheffield, with one of the organisers being my dissertation supervisor – James Cook. I went along for the ride, even though I thought for a while I may be slightly out of place due to me knowing very little on this research area. However, this really was not the case. The impressive array of speakers from around the world, all with different research areas, created an atmosphere that was welcoming and above all, interesting. I also met some wonderful people, who I am glad to have kept in touch with. There were four sessions on this day, all with three 30 minute papers, making it a very intense day, but one that was most enjoyable.

We begun the day with some really interesting coffee, which was more than welcome after a heavy downpour as I walked to the conference! After more people had arrived we sat and had a welcome talk from the men behind the conference, James Cook, Alexander Kolassa and Adam Whittaker. The first session comprised of three papers:

Kenneth McAlpine (Abertay University)

“From Partitas to Platformers: How the Compositional Practice of Bach Shaped the Music of Video Games”

Jennifer Smith (University of Huddersfield)

“Music in the Early Game: Civilization VI”

James Cook (University of Sheffield/Edinburgh)

“Towards a Typology of Fantasy Medievalism in Videogame”

The theme of video games was the link between these three interesting papers, with all giving a unique insight into this fairly under-researched area. The first paper by Kenny, was a fantastic open to the conference as it gave insight into both the musical and technological aspects of producing video game music. The history of video game music was also intriguing to learn, as that is something I had never looked at before. The second paper, which used the game ‘Civilization VI’ as its case study, was enlightening and drew upon many different visual examples. The focus was on folk songs and how they are used in different eras within the game, and as someone who hasn’t played this game, it certainly gave me food for thought! The final paper, by James, tied up this session nicely by discussing how medievalism plays a central role in the creation of different worlds in video game, and how this can represent a more meaningful representation of a world. He discussed various concepts from folk song, oriental concepts and rock music.

The second session were all connected by a much more obvious link – Joan of Arc:

Donald Grieg (University of Nottingham)

“Lo Duca’s Sonorisation of Dreyer’s La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc”

Adam Whittaker (Birmingham City University)

“Sounding Joan of Arc at the End of the 20th Century and Beyond”

Alex Robinson (University of Paris Sorbonne)

“The Middle Ages Restored or Re-Imagined? Music in Jacques Rivette’s Film Jeanne La Pucelle (1994)” 

Although the link is more obvious here, the papers were all completely different from each other, making this section really eye-opening. The first, given by Donald Grieg, looked at Carl Dreyer’s 1928 silent movie La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc. Donald’s talk discussed the choice of using early music and silent film, and how correspondence between Dreyer and film critic Joseph-Marie Lo Duca can shed some light on the decisions made for this film. The second paper, by Adam Whittaker, looked at two soundtracks from films released near the end of the twentieth century – Christian Duguay’s Joan of Arc and Luc Besson’s The Messenger. The representation of Joan and how her characteristics were represented musically were discussed, as well as how her faith is represented differently in the two films. The third paper from Alex Robinson, looked at Jacques Rivette’s Jeanne La Pucelle, and how Joan is portrayed differently than in other films. This is then tied together with an account of how accurate the presentation of both Joan of Arc and the Middle Ages is shown through music and film, which was very interesting indeed!

We regathered in the afternoon for the third sessions with the following papers:

Kendra Leonard (The Silent Film Sound & Music Archive)

“Shakespeare and Music in the Silent Cinema”

Claire Fedoruk (Azusa Pacific University)

“Transforming Narrative through Performance: Orlando Di Lasso’s Lagrime di San Pietro”

Daniel Trocmé-Latter (University of Cambridge)

“Masked Orgies and Backwards Priests: Music and Ritual in Kubick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999)”

What was fantastic about the first paper of this session was the fact it was through a Skype call to Kendra, who was in the USA. Her talk on Shakespeare and silent cinema was enlightening and her examples made the talk all the more interesting. Kendra’s talk looked at two genres of silent film music: early modern English culture and the ‘other’ exotic music that is used for Cleopatra and others. The second paper, presented by Claire Fedoruk, was centred around a collaborative performance between music director Grant Gershon, stage director Peter Sellars and 21 members of the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Claire’s paper took the stance of the modern performance, and how significant a part that plays in the overall dramatic performance of a work. Finally, Daniel Trocmé’s paper on Eyes Wide Shut, considered Jocelyn Pook’s soundtrack and how it has been adapted for screen, looking at one scene in particular. Upon further inspection it seems that part of the text in the chosen scene was partly biblical and partly liturgical, offering various interpretations of how the music is used for dramatic purposes.

The fourth and final session of the conference day comprised of the following papers:

Alexander Kolassa (University of Nottingham)

“Early Music Between the Old and the New in Ken Russell’s The Devils

Giuliano Danieli (King’s College London)

“Ambiguous Conflicts Between Folk/Early Music and Bourgeois Culture: Pasolini’s Cantebury Tales

Alexander Jakobidze-Gitman (University of Witten/Herdecke)

“‘Regression Full of Modern Novelty’: The Rewarding Misuse of Heinrich Schutz’s Works in ‘Earth Driver’ (2016)”

Looking at Peter Maxwell Davies’ soundtrack for The Devils, as well as the music from David Munrow, Alexander’s presentation, if I recall correctly, was full of insightful analysis and a comedic personality that was very welcome this late in the day! His talk looked at the relationship between the function of early music in a ‘modernist landscape’ and how this is depicted in The Devils. Following this was Giuliano’s paper on Pasolini’s Cantebury Tales, which focused on the relationship between medieval folk music, the soundtrack for Canterbury Tales and attitudes of Early Music Revival groups in 1960s Italy. The last, and by no means least, paper of the day was given by Alexander Jakobidze-Gitman, who discussed the music of Henirich Schutz in Earth Driver. Full of philosophy, this paper was interesting and full of information about a topic I was completely alien to.

At the end of the day, there was a keynote from Jane Alden from Wesleyan University. An insightful discussion on the importance of the field and the fantastic work people are doing. My favourite part of the keynote was when there was insightful discussion between the speakers and the keynote speaker, which highlighted the importance of this area of research. Overall, the REMOSS conference was a great experience for me, and gave me a taste of some different parts of musicology. I must thank James and the REMOSS team for inviting me to the conference and being so welcoming, and I am looking forward to the next one!

If you found any of above interesting and want to know more, I couldn’t recommend REMOSS enough, see below to find them online!

For more on what REMOSS do see here: 

Twitter: @REMOSSBrum

Two events – a brief report

The REMOSS group have been busy over the last few weeks with various events. On Friday 13th January the REMOSS group hosted its first event of the year. This roundtable session took place at Birmingham Conservatoire, with many contributors also joining in online. We covered a wide range of topics, including Patrice Chéreau’s La Reine Margot, Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, the video game series The Witcher, and a brief discussion of John Lunn’s soundtrack to The Last Kingdom.

The discussion, which lasted for two and a half hours, was highly stimulating and brought to the surface a number of themes which have featured in our other discussions. It was great to have presentations being made by new members to the group, and to hear that there will be such an interesting range of papers at our forthcoming conference in June (programme to be announced soon!). We hope to turn some of the discussions into blog posts in the near future so watch this space!

On 9th February, Dr Adam Whittaker presented a survey of the work done by the REMOSS group to the Re-thinking Creativities Cluster, which is part of BCU’s Centre for the Study of Practice and Culture in Education (CSPACE). The Creativities Cluster group has a diverse membership that spans the faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences and addresses a wide range of topics. It was a really nice opportunity to talk about REMOSS for a full hour, share some clips, engage in discussion, and get feedback from a range of different perspectives outside of musicology. Hopefully, this will be the first of many opportunities for REMOSS to present at the Creativities Cluster.

cspace bham conservatoire


Next Roundtable Event

Our next roundtable event will take place on Friday 13th January 2017, 3–5.30pm (UK time). You can either attend the discussion in person at Birmingham Conservatoire, or through video link. If you wish to attend in person or participate digitally, please visit our Events page for instructions of how to register your attendance.

In our previous roundtable session, held in September 2016, we discussed a number of films and TV series. Notable examples included Carl Dreyer’s Joan of Arc (1928), accompanied by a new soundtrack by the Chicago-based band of the same name, excerpts from Game of Thrones, The Witcher II: Assassin of Kings, and a number of Soviet films on medieval themes.

History, Fiction and “Anachronism”: Music in La Reine Margot

Dr Alex Robinson, Paris-Sorbonne University

For scholars, the relationship between films based on historical themes versus written history – whether original documents or academics’ narratives of past events – can sometimes feel, to borrow Robert Rosenstone’s expression, like “opponents in a boxing ring” (Rosenstone 1995, p. 2). As we have found in past REMOSS events, musicologists are no less guilty of making such distinctions. How many of us have at least occasionally frowned upon a seemingly inappropriate selection of pieces or the anachronistic nature of their interpretation, or even winced at a newly-composed score that seems totally at odds with the film’s historical subject matter?

Although such reactions may sometimes seem valid, defining what “anachronism” actually equates to is not always so cut and dry. No better example highlights this than films which, despite their setting in the past, are either entirely fictitious in nature or are (by intention) only partially based on fact. What role should music take in such cases? Is it more important that it simply enhances the dramatic aspect (by whatever means a director wishes), or is the recreation of an imagined past really best achieved by the use of historical music?

Patrice Chéreau’s 1994 film La Reine Margot provides an ideal prism through which to examine such questions. (The film has been uploaded in its entirety).

At first glance, it appears to be a simple reimagining of the events surrounding the 1572 marriage of Henry, King of Navarre, and Marguerite de Valois (or “Margot”, the daughter of Catherine de Medici), with its ensuing wave of Catholic mob violence directed against the Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s Day. The real inspiration behind the film, however, is actually Alexandre Dumas’s 1845 novel of the same name. Dumas made no secret of his goal of broadening the appeal of French history to the masses; indeed, he firmly believed (to use his words) that there was nothing wrong with “violating” history as long as “you have a child by her” (Lucas-Dubreton 1929, p. 141). His historically loose retelling of these events from the French Religious Wars certainly remains true to this aim. Ironically, director Chéreau applies this same attitude towards Dumas’s own work, ramping up the sex and gore from the original novel. The film consequently feels a bit like a game of Chinese whispers; it has the “period look” of the 16th century, but only part of the genuine history that inspired it.

What bearing do these observations have on the music in La Reine Margot? Of course, many different options could have been exploited, from using late Renaissance French pieces, to repertoire contemporaneous with Dumas’s novel (or nineteenth-century reworkings of Renaissance music), to portraying a soundscape that simply reinforces the assumptions that today’s (non-specialist) audiences already have about “olde worlde” music. The score for La Reine Margot generally falls into this latter category. It was composed by Goran Bregović, a renowned Yugoslav musician and film music composer known for his association with the band Bijelo Dugme, and it is heavily influenced by Balkan folk music. It thereby mirrors countless other medieval-inspired cinematic and theatrical productions, for which an imagined Celtic soundscape rooted in orientalism (the notion that the past is a foreign country) proves fundamental. A case in point is the music used for the festivities following the marriage ceremony of Henry and Margot, which occurs between 9:08 and 13:41 in the YouTube link cited above. (These pieces have also been directly uploaded from the CD recording of Bregović’s score).

Significantly, the viewer even sees an ensemble of musicians playing Renaissance instruments – a crumhorn, a tabor, a recorder, 2 lutes and a flute –  in this sequence (between 9:29 and 9:33 in the link for the complete film), but these are not the instruments which are actually heard here. This could be taken as proof that Bregović and Chéreau were simply motivated by a desire to recreate a generic past look (and sound). Yet there are ways in which this soundworld can be read as conveying more than just pseudo-“period feel.” According to Phil Powrie (Powrie 1999, p. 5), both Chéreau and the actress Isabelle Adjani, who played the part of Queen Margot, saw the La Reine Margot as a conscious metaphor for the Bosnian war (1992-5). Understood in this light, Bregović’s Balkan-inspired score can perhaps be seen as deliberate attempt to connect the bloody religious conflicts of 16th-century France with ones directly contemporaneous with the film’s creation.

There are other ways in which Bregović’s music subtly exploits the viewers’ (and listeners’) preconceptions. A prime example is the scene depicting Henry and Margot’s marriage itself in Notre-Dame Cathedral, especially between 6:00 and 9:06 in the YouTube link for the full film cited above. (For a slightly edited version of the scene, see:

Here, Bregović’s block-chord vocal writing, using words taken from the Mass ordinary, is dramatically interspersed with “Alleluia” incipits taken from Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus and Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 (from the opening Domine ad adjuvandum response). These quotations from two iconic pieces of Western Classical music seem completely out of place on first hearing; yet their magisterial and pompous character unequivocally reinforces the grandeur of this marriage and, for most people watching the film, probably does so far more effectively than any genuinely authentic music ever could.

In sum, La Reine Margot not only encourages us to revisit our assumptions about the role of music in historical films: it also forces us to reassess both how we define anachronism and the value we place on this concept. More importantly, perhaps, it highlights how history can be appreciated and understood on many different (but equally valid) levels – including one that is based on supposedly anti-historical ideals and which relies on little more than the “look” (and imagined sound) of the past.


Lucas-Dubreton, Jean. Alexandre Dumas, the Fourth Musketeer, trans. Maida Castelhun Darnton (London: Thornton Butterworth, 1929).

Marković, Aleksandra. “Goran Bregović, the Balkan Music Composer.” Ethnologia Balkanica 12 (2008): 9-23.

Powrie, Phil. “Heritage, History and ‘New Realism.’” In French cinema in the 1990s: Continuity and Difference, ed. Phil Powrie, 1-21. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Rosenstone, Robert A. “The Historical Film as Real History.” Filmhistoria online 5/1 (1995): 1-12 (

Music and the Historical Film: An Overview

Simon Nugent, University College Dublin

Historical film has been an ever-present feature of Hollywood cinema since the 19th century, with the role of music in this genre changing dramatically over the history of film. In the so-called “Golden-Age” of Hollywood cinema (roughly 1930-1960) many composers used the standard orchestral score to accompany historical epics and dramas. As the orchestra as we know it today did not emerge until the 17th and 18th centuries, its use in historical films often did not match the time-period and location of the film in question. Some composers felt that music in this genre needed to be “authentic” or historically informed by music of the past. While other elements of period films could be scrutinised and checked for their “authenticity” (such as dialogue, costume and set design), music could not. The lack of musical instruments, melodies and recordings from many periods of history apparently hindered the attempts of many composers to included “authentic” music. However, one of most important and famous composers of music for historical films, Miklós Rózsa, attempted to recreate melodies and instruments from the film’s time-period and combine these with the orchestral score. This can be heard in his scores for Quo Vadis (1951), Knights of the Round Table (1954) and most famously, Ben-Hur (1959).

Quo Vadis? – ‘Suite’

The practice of attempting to include “authentic” instruments and melodies in music for historical films has continued to the present day. While the orchestra remains the main template for historical films, composers have developed new ways to make their scores “authentic”. In his score to The Three Musketeers (1993), composer Michael Kamen used medieval and renaissance dance forms, such as rigadoons, bransles and courantes to match the setting of 17th-century France.

Youtube – The Three Musketeers, ‘Athos, Porthos and Aramis’ –

Although some composers have tried to make their scores “authentic”, many composers still choose not to. For example, in his score to Oliver Stone’s historical epic Alexander (2004), Vangelis used modern music techniques (such as minimalism) and modern instruments (including electronic synthesisers) despite the film being set some time around 300BC.

Alexander, ‘Roxane’s Veil’ –

Other examples where films scores do not appear to be overly “authentic” or historically informed include A Knight’s Tale (2001). In this case, the composer, Carter Burwell, makes use of 1970s rock music (such as Queen, AC/DC and Thin Lizzy) as the sound of 1370s France. Although heavily criticised for its deliberate use of “incorrect” music, the  director Brian Helgeland was quick to defend the musical choices in his film, stating that ‘an orchestral score would be equally anachronistic, since orchestras hadn’t been invented in the 1400s’.[1]

A Knight’s Tale, ‘Dancing Scene’ –

While music in the historical film has changed since the days of Rózsa, composers continue their attempts to include “authentic” or historically informed music in their scores. Despite the emergence of new compositional techniques, many scores for historical films continue to rely on the orchestra. As a result, no matter how hard a composer may try to (re)construct and (re)create the music of a particular historical time-period, the very foundation of that “authentic” score, the orchestra, is unauthentic.

[1] Brian Helgeland, quoted in Roger Ebert, ‘Review: A Knight’s Tale’, Robert Ebert, Last modified 11 May 2001, (Accessed 5 April 2015).