In Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 1944 film A Canterbury Tale the wartime “Land Girl” Allison, on her day off from agricultural duties, gazes down from a Kent hill at the glittering spires of the medieval cathedral. The view is glorious, but with the arrival of strange sounds on the breeze—high angelic voices, and those of invisible pilgrims nearing the city—the scene suddenly departs from the everyday. To the magistrate Culpepper, Allison confides, “Just now I heard sounds: horses' hooves, voices, and a lute—or an instrument like a lute.” For Blitz-weary British audiences of the 1940s the cinematic conjuring of a Chaucerian past offered sentimental escape from the grim reality of ancient city buildings reduced to rubble by Luftwaffe bombs. The film's disembodied music, as Heather Wiebe notes, “magically collapses past and present in the enchanted landscape of modern Canterbury” (p. 39), drawing on common mid-century tropes of sound's...
Review: Britten's Unquiet Pasts: Sound and Memory in Postwar Reconstruction, by Heather Wiebe
PHILIP RUPPRECHT is Associate Professor and Chair of Music at Duke University. His recent publications include British Musical Modernism: The Manchester Group and Their Contemporaries (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and the edited volume Rethinking Britten (Oxford University Press, 2013). With Felix Wörner and Ullrich Scheideler he is currently editing the essay collection Tonality since 1950, to be published by Franz Steiner Verlag. In 2013–14 he was a Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
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Philip Rupprecht; Review: Britten's Unquiet Pasts: Sound and Memory in Postwar Reconstruction, by Heather Wiebe. Journal of the American Musicological Society 1 December 2015; 68 (3): 698–703. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jams.2015.68.3.698
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