Representing Renaissance Rome: Beyond Anachronism in Showtime’s The Borgias

  • 5.15pm

  • Alison House, Lecture Room A
    12 Nicolson Street
    EH8 9DF

Led by James Cook (University of Edinburgh)

As a music historian, I spend much of my time attempting to work out what happened at particular moments of music history and, as a scholar heavily involved in historically informed music performance, I focus significant attention on the task of reconstructing the lost sounds of the past. So what are people like me to make of the plethora of popular representations of history that seemingly have little regard for these kinds of details? The approach of many scholars to date has been largely to ignore them as unfortunate and inaccurate portrayals of the past. Today, I wish to offer a different perspective, viewing them as an integral part of the reception history – a kind of digital historiography or ‘historiophoty’ to borrow Hayden White’s term – of early musics. To do this, I will focus on a single episode of Showtime’s historical drama The Borgias, arguing that anachronism simply fails to explain adequately the creative use of the musical past on show here. Instead, I will argue that the show’s creators have been far from uncritical or random in their approach, and that careful consideration unearths an interesting intellectual process, whilst also revealing many of the popular conceptions held about the sounds of the past.

Free to attend. Open to all.

Part of the Music Research Seminar Series 2017/18.

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