Music played an integral role in daily life under Nazism and a PhD student from Edge Hill University wants to investigate its use in Holocaust films for a new study.
Matt Lawson is one of the University’s 12 new Graduate Teaching Assistants who has been awarded a bursary to focus on innovative research ideas that haven’t been explored in depth by other academics within their fields.
Scoring the Holocaust is the topic he has chosen to examine in detail the type of music used in films depicting the mass murder or genocide of approximately six million European Jews during Hitler’s reign of power during World War II.
As it’s a relatively new area of research, Scarborough-born Matt has been invited to present a paper at the Music and Genocide International Interdisciplinary Conference taking place in Krakow on 16th and 17th November.
Explaining the idea behind the study, Matt said: “Film and music are two popular media used to understand what happened during the Holocaust and I think that the type of music can influence how we view and learn about this tragic event. Music is used to reflect themes from politics and propaganda to resistance and memory, but also has the power to completely alter the viewer’s mood or perception, depending on how it is portrayed. This is something I really want to explore in detail in order to help us understand this important piece of history. My big question is whether the music chosen is appropriate for the films it is used in, taking into account ethical, moral and political obligations of the composers”
Highlighting examples, he said: “German composer Hanns Eisler uses what appears to be superficially light, pastoral music in Nuit et Brouillard, yet the imagery is very dark in the documentary. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the music in Schindler’s List could be viewed as being oversentimental, cheapening the effect of the visual narrative. This could alter our perceptions of these events and perhaps result in a ‘dumbed down’ fictionalised reality, or a ‘Hollywood’ Holocaust which perhaps is not appropriate when depicting such a dark period of human history on screen”
The 25-year-old will be investigating several themes in his research, including German, British, American and Eastern European films to see how they differ in their use of music. Propaganda and documentaries will also be examined.
He believes the conference will be an ideal time to raise such questions as the scholars attending have a strong interest in music and genocide.
“It’s a privilege to be asked to present at this international conference because I will be getting feedback from musicologists at an early stage in the project,” said Matt. “It could even influence my research if new themes and approaches emerge. Representing Edge Hill University will allow me to raise awareness on an international level and will offer a new perspective on film musicology.
“I hope that at the end of my PhD I will be able to move film and music studies to a new level and keep the Holocaust at the forefront of people’s minds from both an academic and personal point of view.”
For information about the conference, visit www.musicandgenocide.blogspot.co.uk/.