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HIST7460: Music and the Historian

Dr Lars Fischer

Few phenomena have persistently played as integral a role in people’s lives and yet drawn as little serious interest from mainstream historians as has music (not just as a form of high culture, but as an everyday social practice and, far from least, an integral part of liturgical practice and experience). In part this is doubtless down to the technical and sometimes rather arcane way in which musicologists all too often discuss historical issues, frequently granting supposedly value-free aesthetic considerations primacy over social and contextual perspectives. Whatever the causes, there can be little doubt that we urgently need a ‘musical turn’ in historical practice (albeit one that seeks to complement rather than displace the wealth of other approaches at our disposal). This course will explore what this musical turn might look like. It will focus not on the history of music as such but firmly on ways in which a focus on music in history can facilitate a fuller and deeper understanding of historical contexts, not least by insisting that musical aesthetics do not and cannot inhabit a space devoid of social, political and, indeed, ethical concerns.

Assessment methods

HIST7460A/B: 2 X 2,500 word essays

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