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Music Research Seminar




Speakers: Professor Steve Cottrell, Dr Miguel Mera


Room AG09, College Building
City University London, St. John Street
EC1V 4PB (nearest tubes: Angel, Farringdon)

This seminar is free to attend and open to all those with an interest in the subject area, including City students and prospective students, alumni, musicians and musicologists, and students from other universities. Advance booking not required.

'Inglo(u)rious Basterdisation? Tarantino and the War Movie Mash-up'

Dr Miguel Mera

This presentation will explore ways in which the music in Inglourious Basterds represents a continuation of Quentin Tarantino's working methods, and a shift in aesthetic approach through the application of layers of appropriative meaning that are synonymous with the popular music practice known as mash-up. In Inglourious Basterds multiple references do not exist solely through ironic parallelism, emphasizing counterpoint or defamiliarisation, but rather seek the true goal of mash-up culture which is pluralism.

One of the most commonly critiqued aspects of the film is that it rewrites the ending of World War II creating an alternate version of the Holocaust in which Hitler and his high command officers are burned alive. Tarantino's film is not only a mash-up of war movie clichés and characters but also explores how film shapes audiences understanding of fact. Tarantino stated: 'I like the idea that it's the power of cinema that fights the Nazis. But not even as a metaphor - as a literal reality.' Within this context, the references to music from the spaghetti western sub-genre allow historical liberties to become a reflection on the metamorphosis of fact into myth. I will argue that there is a moral consequence to the audience's cathartic response that forces it to confront its own spectatorial position. In this sense, Inglourious Basterds ultimately problematises the nature of historical (mis)representation in war movies.

'Music, Mediation and Identity: Seven Decades of Desert Island Discs' 

Professor Stephen Cottrell

The cultural artefacts with which we surround ourselves as individuals are often taken by those we encounter to be somehow indicative of our private selves.  Our book collections, the pictures or posters we choose for our walls, our DVD or video collections, all ostensibly provide others with insights into our private emotional world. They also provide opportunities for the identification of common tastes - 'I love that book!' - or the opposite - 'What on earth made you buy that picture?'. 

Nowhere is this shared cultural appreciation/depreciation more complex than in relation to music. As Bourdieu famously put it, 'nothing more infallibly classifies, than tastes in music', and while he meant this in relation to his specific analysis of 'legitimate arts' and their relationship to particular social classes, the notion that musical tastes reveal something of both individual and collective identities is both more generally true and more widely revealing. 

The well-known BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs provides a particularly intriguing example of the public display of private musical tastes. Each castaway is allowed to suggest eight pieces of music that they take to be somehow meaningful, and must then explain why they chose that piece. Taken at face value, listeners are given insight into the emotions provoked for the castaway by their musical choices.  But the matter is undoubtedly complicated by the knowledge that these choices will be made public, indeed widely broadcast. Thus, what listeners are invited to construe as a series of private musical experiences provoking individual emotions is in fact a very public performance of individual identity, expressed through musical taste.

In this paper I shall expand on these themes, taking an overview of the way in which recording technology now underpins musical self conception, while using case studies from Desert Island Discs to consider some of the ways in which that self conception is played out in the public sphere.

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When and where

5.30pm - 7.30pmWednesday 22nd February 2012

College Building City, University of London St John Street London EC1V 4PB UK

Contact Details

Department of Music

Department Administrator


College Building
City, University of London
Northampton Square
United Kingdom
+44 (0)20 7040 8284

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