The Dent Medal

Personal holding gold medal in presentation case whilst another person claps

The Dent Medal

The Dent Medal, struck in memory of the distinguished scholar and musician Edward J. Dent (1876-1957), has been awarded by the Royal Musical Association annually since 1961 to recipients selected for their outstanding contribution to musicology.

The Medal is awarded to scholars in mid-career, typically indicated by time from the completion of their PhD or first academic appointment. Candidates are selected on the basis of published scholarship, and the outstanding contribution to musicology may consist of either a single large-scale study or a body of work. Musicology is understood in broad terms, and eligible works may include (but are not limited to) monographs, collections of essays, articles, critical editions, and digital resources.

In line with the RMA’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, we encourage applications from across the full spectrum of music studies, including individuals from currently underrepresented groups.

Nomination Process

Nominations may only be made by current members of the RMA or IMS. Self-nominations are not permitted. We strongly encourage nominations that reflect the full diversity of music studies.

Nominators should submit a statement of up to 1200 words to the Executive Officer; please include “Dent Medal Submission” in the subject line. This statement should indicate the scholar’s career stage; include relevant biographical details or a link to a webpage where such information can be located; and identify the body of work that forms the basis for the nomination and explain why it constitutes an outstanding contribution to musicology. The statement should also include details of any additional published work and activities that have served to further enhance musicological scholarship.

Nominations and supporting documents should be received by 1 April. The Awards Committee’s recommendation will be submitted to the following meeting of Council, and, if approved, the award will be announced at the Annual General Meeting, held each September during the RMA’s Annual Conference.

Earlier recipients

Full citations are given in the Journal of the Royal Musical Association each year.

  • 2023 – Catherine A. Bradley (Norway)
  • 2022 – Mark Burford (US)
  • 2021 – Laura Tunbridge (UK)
  • 2020 – Eric Drott (US)
  • 2019 – Gundula Kreuzer (US)
  • 2018 – Inga Mai Groote (Switzerland)
  • 2017 – Alejandro L. Madrid (US)
  • 2016 – Mark Katz (US)
  • 2015 – Marina Frolova-Walker (UK)
  • 2014 – Alexander Rehding (US)
  • 2013 – Elizabeth Eva Leach (UK)
  • 2012 – Michel Duchesneau (Canada)
  • 2011 – Annegret Fauser (Germany)
  • 2010 – Martin Stokes (UK)
  • 2009 – W. Dean Sutcliffe (New Zealand)
  • 2008 – Anselm Gerhard (Germany)
  • 2007 – Georgina Born (UK)
  • 2006 – Mary Ann Smart (USA)
  • 2005 – Julian Johnson (UK)
  • 2004 – Daniel Chua (UK)
  • 2003 – John Butt (UK)
  • 2002 – Laurenz Lütteken (Switzerland)
  • 2001 – Martha Feldman (USA)
  • 2000 – Philippe Vendrix (Belgium)
  • 1999 – Gianmario Borio (Italy)
  • 1998 – Rob C. Wegman (USA)
  • 1997 – Philip V. Bohlman (USA)
  • 1996 – Ulrich Konrad (Germany)
  • 1995 – Susan Rankin (UK)
  • 1994 – Lorenz Welker (Germany)
  • 1993 – Carolyn Abbate (USA)
  • 1992 – Kofi Agawu (Ghana)
  • 1991 – Roger Parker (UK)
  • 1990 – Christopher Page (UK)
  • 1989 – Paolo Fabbri (Italy)
  • 1988 – Jean-Jacques Nattiez (Canada)
  • 1987 – Richard F. Taruskin (USA)
  • 1986 – Silke Leopold (West Germany)
  • 1985 – Curtis A. Price (USA)
  • 1984 – Iain Fenlon (UK)
  • 1983 – Lorenzo Bianconi (Italy)
  • 1982 – David Fallows (UK)
  • 1981 – Anthony Newcombe (USA)
  • 1980 – Craig Wright (USA)
  • 1979 – Margaret Bent (UK)
  • 1978 – Christoph Wolff (USA)
  • 1977 – Reinhard Strohm (UK)
  • 1976 – [No award made]
  • 1975 – Martin Staehelin (West Germany)
  • 1974 – Andrew McCredie (Australia)
  • 1973 – Max Lutolf (Switzerland)
  • 1972 – Jozef Robijns (Belgium)
  • 1971 – Klaus Wolfgang Niemoller (West Germany)
  • 1970 – Daniel Heartz (USA)
  • 1969 – Willem Elders (Holland)
  • 1968 – Heinrich Huschen (West Germany)
  • 1967 – William W. Austin (USA)
  • 1966 – F. Alberto Gallo (Italy)
  • 1965 – Barry S. Brook (USA)
  • 1964 – Pierre Pidoux (Switzerland)
  • 1963 – Denes Bartha (Hungary)
  • 1962 – Solange Corbin (France)
  • 1961 – Gilbert Reaney (UK)

Edward J. Dent (1876-1957) studied music at the University of Cambridge, becoming a fellow of King’s College in 1902 and professor of music in 1926. He made a marked impression with his first monograph on Alessandro Scarlatti (1905) and developed a distinguished career as a musicologist with his studies of Mozart operas, English opera, and Ferruccio Busoni.

Dent’s achievements extended well beyond academic research. He served as the founding President of the International Society for Contemporary Music (1922-1938), and as President of the International Musicological Society (1932-1949). In these roles, he encouraged international cooperation and collaboration, advocated the significance of music in cultural diplomacy, and was widely recognised for his significant diplomatic skills. During the Second World War, Dent did a considerable amount to help Jewish and other refugee musicians find positions. Among those he helped were Egon Wellesz, Otto Deutsch, Robert Gerhard, Paul Hirsch, Kathi Meyer and Roberto Gerhard.

In addition to being known for his personal charm and initiative, Dent’s writings, letters, and the testimony of his contemporaries indicate that he was highly opinionated and shared widely held prejudices. He was outspokenly anti-clerical and anti-catholic and had a habit of stereotyping national traits. His writings also show that he was prone to being off-handedly anti-German in public and private pronouncements. More recently, it has emerged that Dent wrote a private letter to Alban Berg in November 1933 that can easily be read as antisemitic. The letter concerns how Jewish German refugees should behave to get employment within the British musical scene. The RMA invited Dent experts to advise Council about the meaning of the letter and whether it constitutes a reason to remove his name from the Dent medal. The consultation took place between the summer of 2021 and early 2022. The views of the experts were presented to Council by the President at their January 2022 meeting. It was agreed that the RMA should acknowledge that Dent in this private context was expressing an antisemitic and more widely an anti-German attitude, but that he never expressed antisemitic views in his public pronouncements or actions. Annegret Fauser confirms that this is particularly evident once the Nazis had come to power. Indeed, he actively supported Jewish refugees and according to Florian Scheding, ‘he was, publicly, a shining light amidst an atmosphere of intense anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiments in mid-20th-century Britain, in which the British musical establishment continuously lobbied for Jewish refugees to be excluded from (full) access to musical life in Britain. Dent consistently, and very much against the tide, helped Jewish refugees and advocated in their favour.’

The RMA Council agreed to retain the name of the Medal, acknowledging Dent’s considerable advocacy work on behalf of marginalised interests, his ability to draw disparate parties into consensus at a highly politicised moment, and his substantial scholarly achievements on the one hand, as well as his weaknesses on the other. The case of Dent is a useful reminder about what we should expect from the people we set up as models or symbols. We need due diligence and care befitting a scholarly society in understanding their limitations and the complexities of personality that shape their activities. And equally we need clarity and honesty about their achievements and why they matter to organisations such as the RMA and the IMS.

The RMA acknowledges the expert advice of Karen Arrandale, Sarah Collins, Daniel Chua, Annegret Fauser, Sarah Hibberd, Barbara Kelly, Leanne Langley, Erik Levi and Florian Scheding.

Selected Bibliography

Annegret Fauser, “The Scholar behind the Medal: Edward J. Dent (1876-1957) and the Politics of Music History.” Journal of the Royal Musical Association 139 no. 2: 1914 235-60.

Sarah Collins, ‘What was Contemporary Music?’, in Bjorn Heile and Charles Wilson (eds), The Routledge Research Companion to Modernism in Music (London: Routledge, 2019), 56–85.

Giles Masters, ‘New-Music Internationalism: The ISCM Festival, 1922–1939’, PhD dissertation, Kings College, London, 2021.

Barbara L. Kelly, ‘Internationalism and Musical Exchange in post-World-War 1 Europe (1918-1923)’, Music and Postwar Transitions (19th and 20th Centuries) eds. Anaïs Fléchet, Martin Guerpin, Philippe Gumplowicz and Barbara L. Kelly (Berghahn Books, in press, 2022)

Harold Rutland, ‘Edward J. Dent’, The Musical Times, 98(1376) (Oct. 1957), 571; Anne Shreffler, ‘The International Society for Contemporary Music and its Political Context’, In Music and International History in the Twentieth Century, edited by Jessica C. E. Gienow-Hecht, 58-90 (New York/Oxford: Berghahn, 2015).

Katharine Thomson, ‘Dent’ The Musical Times, 121(1651) (Sep.1980), 549.

Jack Allan Westrup, ‘Edward Joseph Dent; 16 July, 1876-22 August, 1957’, Acta Musicologica, 29(4) (Oct. – Dec., 1957), 109-110