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John Haines (University of Toronto), “Music as Commodity in the New World”

Thursday, November 27, 2014 @ 4:15 PM - 6:00 PM

The New World, so called by sixteenth-century Europeans, had desirable commodities to offer. During the first century of the European invasion of the Americas, music acted as a commodity, or at least as a kind of currency to obtain commodities. This happened mainly in two ways over the course of the sixteenth century. Firstly, Europeans used musical performances and instruments, in particular small bells, to lure and trade with Amerindians. Secondly, travel accounts and displays of captured natives, both intended to generate more and more European voyages to the Americas, often featured the strange and wonderful music of Amerindians. For Europeans, these musical performances had a visceral appeal partly because they looked and sounded strangely familiar. Amerindian music reminded them of their own musical heritage from the not quite eclipsed Middle Ages, of worlds and mentalities that were rapidly fading in capitalism’s first push. All too soon, music’s longstanding cosmic and spiritual power would be relegated to a mere means for the buying and selling of commodities. And such is its place in our time.

John Haines is professor of music and medieval studies at the University of Toronto. He has published on the music of the Middle Ages and its modern reception in a variety of journals, both musicological – from Early Music History to Popular Music – and non-musicological – from Romania to Scriptorium. His books include Eight Centuries of Troubadours and Trouvères: The Changing Identity of Medieval Music (2004) and Medieval Song in Romance Languages (2010). He is a contributor, among others, to The Cambridge Companion to French Music and The Oxford Handbook of Victorian Medievalism, both forthcoming. This year (2014), appeared two of his books, Music in Films on the Middle Ages: Authenticity vs. Fantasy (Routledge) and The Notory Art of Shorthand (Ars notoria notarie): A Curious Chapter in the History of Writing in the West (Louvain), as well as his edited collection of essays, Musique et littérature au Moyen Âge, for the Cahiers de recherches médiévales et humanistes (Garnier). Most recently, he has been studying music of the Americas in the sixteenth century.


Thursday, November 27, 2014
4:15 PM - 6:00 PM
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