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Dent Medal Study Day 2012

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Photograph: Lloyd Sturdy

Annual General Meeting and Dent Medal Study Day (50th Award)
in Honour of Annegret Fauser

On 15 September 2012, the Royal Musical Association held a study day in honour of Professor Annegret Fauser, 2011 winner of the association's Dent Medal. The study day was on the theme of 'Music and War'. As this was the fiftieth award of the Dent medal, there was a morning round table featuring past Dent medal recipients. The Theme of the round table was "Fifty years of international musicology. Continuities and ruptures".

Photographs: Lloyd Sturdy

Christopher Page delivers his position paper on ‘Fifty Years of International Musicology: Continuities and Ruptures’.

The participants in the roundtable on ‘Fifty Years of International Musicology: Continuities and Ruptures’.

Annegret Fauser, who gave the Dent Medal Lecture 2012.

Julian Johnson discussing the historiography of post-1800 music.

The morning of the study day featured a round table featuring past Dent medal recipients on the theme of "Fifty years of international musicology. Continuities and ruptures".

Photographs: Lloyd Sturdy

Reinhard Strohm



Margaret Bent

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Christopher Page

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Ulrich Konrad



Philippe Vendrix



Martha Feldman



Julian Johnson

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Conference Review

This review of the Dent Medal Study Day appeared in the RMA Newsletter, October 2012.

After a summer filled with the celebration of international athletic achievements, the 15 September saw an international gathering in London for the presentation of a rather different kind of medal. The venue, albeit somewhat smaller than the stadium at the Olympic Park, was Senate House, and the occasion was a study day in honour of the outstanding contribution to musicology of Annegret Fauser, recipient of the 2011 Dent Medal. On this occasion the celebration was twofold, also marking the 50th anniversary of the Dent Medal, an award instituted by the RMA in 1961 in honour of the distinguished scholar and musician Edward J Dent (1876–1957).

The morning session brought together an international panel of seven former Dent medallists. Participants briefly presented their personal reflections on the broad theme, ‘Fifty Years of International Musicology: Continuities and Ruptures’. Perspectives were wide-ranging, encompassing medieval and Renaissance music (Margaret Bent), thoughts on the relationship between scholarship and practice both in opera studies (Martha Feldman) and in early music (Christopher Page), and reflections from a former composer on changes to the frameworks governing how we think about Modernist repertoire (Julian Johnson).

Fittingly for an award named after a musicological globetrotter such as Dent, Reinhard Strohm’s opening paper introduced a theme which recurred throughout the day: international relations across borders and boundaries. Strohm’s reflection on cross-Channel links in musicology over the past 50 years and the work of the IMS in bringing together European musicologists led him to consider the need for a post-European musicology, with greater interaction between musicologists in different countries and continents. Continuing the theme of Strohm’s discussion, international perspectives on musicology were provided by Ulrich Konrad, with an overview of the ‘state of health’ of German musicology; and by Philippe Vendrix, with a reflection on musicology in the European Union. Vendrix’s worrying account of the journal-ranking system recently implemented in France, and a ‘remapping musicology’ paper presented at the European Science Foundation, highlighted the misunderstanding and inequality that EU research policy can produce. Faced with such developments, Vendrix suggested, musicologists as a whole need to ask how we can act effectively at a European level, and with a single voice, to defend musicology.

The ‘continuities and ruptures’ theme was carried into the afternoon in three papers on the subject of Music and War. Reflecting the important contribution made by Annegret Fauser to the study of French music, papers by Jeanice Brooks (University of Southampton) and Barbara Kelly (Keele University) examined the impact of world wars on the music criticism of Nadia Boulanger and the compositional styles of Jolivet and Ravel respectively. For Boulanger, as for many critics writing in the aftermath of war, musical performance could be an act of commemoration and a way for French citizens to deal with the horror and loss they had experienced. Brooks homed in on a lesser-known area of Boulanger’s musical career: her post-war musical columns for the French periodical Le monde musical. She demonstrated how Boulanger constructed concert attendance and listening as remembrance by drawing on religious concepts of suffering, sacrifice and redemption. Taking us chronologically further into the century, Kelly’s examination of the effects of the Second World War on the compositional style of Jolivet, seen most noticeably in his Trois complaintes du soldat of 1940, highlighted the significance of world conflicts as catalysts for artistic change. Her demonstration of the artistic rupture between generations caused as a result of episodes of extended global conflict highlighted just why periods of large-scale political and social upheaval make such alluring – if problematic – period boundaries around which to structure music history.

For the last paper of the afternoon session, we travelled from France to Russia, with a discussion by Marina Frolova-Walker (University of Cambridge) of the controversial application of ‘phantom programmes’ to Soviet music composed during and after the Second World War. Frolova-Walker examined critics’ and composers’ use of the war as a catch-all programme, used to ‘legitimize’ instrumental music. She considered the effects of such phantom programmes on the reception of music by Shostakovich, before expanding her discussion to consider the wider implications of the practice for instrumental music in Soviet Russia in the 1940s.

The themes of international relations and international conflict which were woven seamlessly throughout the day’s presentations were brought together in the final event of the day, the Dent Medal lecture by Annegret Fauser. In a polished performance, Fauser presented an angle on the international career of Edward Dent, fittingly paying tribute to ‘the scholar behind the medal’. As a musicologist with a truly international profile, it seemed appropriate that she should have chosen as her subject a figure who, as we discovered from her lecture, had himself played an important role on the international musicological stage in the early twentieth century. Fauser’s talk brought us full circle to the theme of cross-Channel relations with which the day had commenced.

Although Dent’s role as president of the ISCM and IMS may already be known to many, Fauser provided a fascinating insight into his views on the ability of art to offer post-war reconciliation, and on his belief of the mediating powers of music. For him, music was a means by which to build relations, creating understanding through musical exchange. By demonstrating Dent’s enthusiasm specifically for music before 1800, and for contemporary musical developments, Fauser located him within the context of musical Modernism in the early twentieth century, aligning him with others of his generation such as Boulanger who demonstrated similar attachment to these two periods of music. Echoing Page’s earlier discussion of the relationship between research and practice, Fauser described Dent’s rejection of scholarship along archaeological lines: his ideal musical scholarship was evidently one that used research findings to bring music alive in the present. This attitude highlighted the combination of old and new at the heart of Dent’s musical aesthetic, and was a timely reminder of Page’s reference earlier in the day to the lost tradition of musical study typified by Dent’s contemporary Thurston Dart, for whom musicology and performance went hand in hand.

What would Dent himself have made of the day’s proceedings? With the breadth of perspectives offered in an engaging set of papers by speakers from three continents, the focus on both practice and research, and the celebration of past and present luminaries in musical scholarship, it must surely have been a day of which Dent would have approved.

Thanks are due to Katharine Ellis, Mark Everist and the team of helpers from the IMR for their impeccable organization of a very well-attended day.

Rachel Moore is Junior Research Fellow and lecturer in music at Worcester College, Oxford.

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