Music and Realism: comparative historical perspectives

Bramall Music Building - The Dome (3rd Floor) (R12 on map)
Friday 19 June (11:00) - Saturday 20 June 2015 (17:30)


The term ‘realism’ has been central to debates in the humanities for 150 years, first in relation to the novel, painting and theatre, and later to film. Yet it has little currency in writing about music, outside two specialist areas: Italian operatic ‘verismo’ of circa 1900, and Soviet-era ‘socialist realism’. The aim of this two-day workshop is to explore the ways in which the category of realism may in fact be broadly appropriate to the study of music. Participants have been invited to cover a wide chronological range of topics, within a timespan of roughly 1840 to 1960. For each of the main periods of interest there will be consideration of French, Italian, German and British materials. Russian/Soviet and US repertory will also be discussed. The historiography of nineteenth- and twentieth-century music currently suffers from a certain monolithic character, in which the terms ‘Romantic’ and ‘modernist’ are overworked, and the transition between these periods unclear. It is hoped that a new focus on realism will bring the possibility of greater historical precision and differentiation.

Venue: Dome Room, Bramall Music Building


Friday 19 June

11:00 - Coffee and welcome

11:30 - Session 1

  • Jonathan Hicks (King’s College London): ‘Landscape and Class in English Scott Operas’
  • Adrian Daub (Stanford): ‘Realism, Narrative, Program – The Case of the Ballad’

13:00 - Lunch

14:00 - Session 2

  • Arman Schwartz (University of Birmingham): ‘Puccini, Realism, and Scepticism’
  • Flora Willson (King’s College, Cambridge): ‘Labour in Love: Realism and Charpentier’s Louise
  • Paul Rodmell (University of Birmingham): ‘Bringing Realism to British Opera: Ethel Smyth’s The Boatswain’s Mate

16:00 - Tea

16:30 - General discussion: Music and Realism in the (Long) Nineteenth Century

Saturday 20 June

10:30 - Coffee

11:00 - Session 3

  • Peter Tregear (Australian National University): ‘Operatic Realism and the Zeitoper’
  • Marina Frolova Walker (Clare College, Cambridge): ‘“Psychorealism” and the New Soviet Man’
  • Ben Earle (University of Birmingham): ‘Fascist Realism in Music? The Reception of Goffredo Petrassi’s Salmo IX

13:00 - Lunch

14:00 - Session 4

  • Leslie Sprout (Drew): ‘Realism in Theory and Practice in Honegger’s Early Sound FiIm Scores’
  • Gavin Williams (Jesus College, Cambridge): ‘Aural Colonization in The Silent Village
  • Heather Wiebe (King’s College London): ‘American Opera, Realism and the Left in the 1940s’

16:00 - Tea

16:30 - General Discussion: Music and Realism in the (Short) Twentieth Century

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