1st Edition

Music in Films on the Middle Ages Authenticity vs. Fantasy

By John Haines Copyright 2014

    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. Haines focuses on the tension in these films 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. Medieval film music must be considered in the broader historical context of pre-cinematic medievalisms and 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 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, that create a fundamental visual-aural core central to making a film feel medieval to modern audiences, originate in medievalist works predating cinema by some three centuries.

    Preface 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 References Filmography


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

    Haines’s stimulating and elegantly written study may well convince a few more individuals of the merits of researching the historical basis of film music. It presents a persuasive, richly detailed, and thoughtful exploration of the tropes of cinematic music."

    - Lisa Colton, University of Huddersfield