Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 May 2018
The uses and representations of early music in the context of popular culture have, until recently, received relatively little attention in academic contexts. In a forthcoming collection, Recomposing the Past: Early Music on Stage and Screen (2018), the REMOSS (Representations of Early Music on Stage and Screen) Study Group has sought to redress this lack by bringing together a wide range of perspectives to examine the impact of early music beyond its traditional academic audiences. Contemporary popular culture offers a highly stylized and eclectic – often contradictory – view of history that, crucially, is of increasing importance to the popular understanding, reception, and experience of history, and of early music. Indeed, early music – that is, musics predating the common-practice period and typically associated with the European Middle Ages and Renaissance – finds its biggest audience in our popular film, television, video-game, and new-media landscape. That landscape is, with likely few exceptions, from where the future performers, researchers, and advocates of these traditions will emerge.
It is unsurprising, then, that we would be drawn to the work of Studies in Medievalism and its community of scholars working on medievalist and neomedievalist subject matter. After all, Studies in Medievalism responds to many of the same animating questions and issues: the recognition, for example, of history as artifice, of its legacies for our popular and public imaginations, and of the way that these legacies intersect our understanding of past and present alike all seem highly salient. The contested concept of authenticity, as this volume will attest, also presents problems and possibilities for those who want to understand how the past functions today. To this extent, the REMOSS group has been particularly interested in the examination of the temporally discontinuous (or out of place) – anachronisms, for example – that have pervasive traditions in the vocabulary of historical film or television. Early-music scholars have strong opinions, unsurprisingly, about the supposed inaccuracies that litter our medieval cinematic canons. It is at authenticity's outer reaches, however, that the past speaks most effectively to the present.