‘[A] single, true, certain authenticity’: The authenticity wars in English twentieth-century folk and medieval music revivals
At intervals throughout the twentieth century, serious disputes about authentic musical values arose amongst performers, collectors, scholars, directors, reviewers, and audiences in the folk and medieval music spheres. Analysis of these controversies offers insights into the deep emotions, fantasies, and desires in arguments around authenticity in medievalism. This essay considers two examples of English musical revivalism, one exemplified by the folk song collector Cecil Sharp, the other by Christopher Page, the medieval literature and music scholar and director of music group Gothic Voices. In the writings of both men, emotional concerns about the purity of English musical traditions reveal the role music is given in the maintenance of English nationalism, and more generally in defending notions of identity and social order against feared sources of contamination.
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