REMOSS: The Story So Far

Hello and welcome to the REMOSS blog! REMOSS is a new and exciting study group, hosted at the University of Nottingham’s Centre for Music on Stage and Screen (MOSS), which brings together participants from a diverse range of fields. We hope to discuss the different ways in which Early Music (broadly construed as pre-classical) is represented and used in film and television, opera, ballet and theatre, and videogames etc. We’ll be posting reports about our roundtable sessions and any observations we happen to make!

Outside of academia, it is perhaps through media that Early Music is most often encountered, and yet this is an avenue of enquiry that has so far gone under-examined. Though this project might have begun (as we’re sure many do) as an exercise in pedantry by a number of grumpy academics (!) highlighting unintentional anachronisms in historical dramas (a temptation we are committed to resisting), we feel now is a great time to redress this gap in the scholarship. We expect, through our events (both in the past months and those to come), to go some way towards exploring a number of highly relevant debates regarding authenticity, anachronism, and orientalism. Through our discussions of a diverse range of compositional practices, we expect to establish a fruitful forum for the exploration of the representation of Early Music on stage and screen.

So far, the REMOSS group has met at the University of Nottingham for three very interesting roundtable sessions. Given that we’re venturing into relatively unchartered waters, there is no shortage of examples, drawn from stage, screen, and new media, to be brought to the table. This range of examples outlines the breadth of this exciting topic, and highlights some of the key issues that we expect will come to characterise this project.

The first roundtable discussion included informal presentations and discussions from James Cook, Alex Kolassa, Esperanza Rodriguez-Garcia, and Jonathan Herrick. Topics included the use of Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest’ in a coronation scene from TV series The Borgias, the mystery play of Elche that has been the focal point of a local celebratory festival in the town of Elche for centuries, and a sequence that incorporated a performance of part of The Beggar’s Opera in the video-game Assassin’s Creed III (2012). A variety of issues were discussed, including anachronism and the ways in which this might provide commentary for (or against) the drama, the use of plainchant as an underscore to dialogue, the ways that ‘living traditions’ can affect musical representation, and the integration of newly-composed music alongside historically-accurate music in a video-game context.

The second roundtable developed some of the themes from the first session, with informal presentations from Mervyn Cooke and Adam Whittaker. The representation of Tudor music in a number of scenes from Elizabeth (1998) was discussed at some length, raising a number of interesting points. The session also included a brief investigation into the representation of an organ player in Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky (1938) and questioned some of the possible reasons for the degree of attention paid to the mechanics of the organ.

Finally, our third round table was the first to include new international speakers accommodated through video conferencing. Two of the speakers from this will be writing guest blogs here in the near future. After three successful roundtable discussions hosted at Nottingham, we’re very much looking forward to our study day on 12th June 2015. Again, we will be accommodating a number of speakers through video conferencing. This will allow the international membership of the group to get involved in the discussion and to bring yet more perspectives to the debate. We expect this day to be exciting and will be sure to report on in a subsequent blog post!

If you’re interested in joining REMOSS, or just hearing more about what is going on with the group, you can join our JISCmail list (remoss@jiscmail.ac.uk), email us (remoss@nottingham.ac.uk), follow us on Twitter (@REMOSSNotts) or visit our website (http://nottingham.ac.uk/moss/research/remoss.aspx).

James Cook
Alex Kolassa
Adam Whittaker
Jonathan Herrick

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