Thursday, July 18, 2013

Haines's Music in Films on the Middle Ages

Update number three for the night highlights an intriguing new book from Routledge (unfortunately the price may limit its reach):

Music in Films on the Middle Ages: Authenticity vs. Fantasy
By John Haines

To Be Published October 14th 2013 by Routledge

Series: Routledge Research in Music

Hardback: $125.00
Available for pre-order


This book explores the role of music in the some five hundred feature-length films on the Middle Ages produced between the late 1890s and the present day, ranging from historical epics such as Joan the Woman (1917) to medievalist stories such as The Lord of the Rings (2001-3). Haines focuses on the tension in these films between authenticity and fantasy, between the surviving evidence for medieval music and the idiomatic tradition of cinematic music. The latter is taken broadly as any musical sound occurring in a film, from the clang of a bell off-screen to a minstrel singing his song; it includes both diegetic and non-diegetic modes. Medieval film music must is considered in the broader historical context of pre-cinematic medievalisms, on the one hand, and, on the other, of medievalist cinema’s main development in the course of the twentieth century as an American appropriation of European culture. The book treats six pervasive moments that define the genre of what could be called medieval film: the church-tower bell, the trumpet fanfare or horn call, the music of banquets and courts, the singing minstrel, performances of Gregorian chant, and the music that accompanies horse-riding knights, with each chapter visiting representative films as case studies. These six signal musical moments create a fundamental visual-aural core that is central to making a film feel medieval to modern audiences, and these musical stereotypes originate in medievalist works predating cinema by some three centuries.


1. The Making of the Middle Ages
2. The Bell
3. The Trumpet Fanfare and the Horn Call
4. Banquet and Court Music
5. The Singing Minstrel
6. Chant
7. The Riding Warrior
8. Conclusion


John Haines is Professor of Music History and Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto, Canada.

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