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Philip V. Bohlman: “And Trumpets Loudly Heralded the Holy Secret”

The Cid, Caesura, and the Death of Heroes across Centuries

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Philip V. Bohlman: “And Trumpets Loudly Heralded the Holy Secret”
Philip V. Bohlman: “And Trumpets Loudly Heralded the Holy Secret”

Date & Location

12 oct 2020, 15:00 – 16:30

Online Event (Zoom, Facebook)

About the Event

For this presentation I draw together two of my long-term projects and place them in a conversation that I extend also to the spirit of sonic conversation unifying the lecture series. The first of these projects grows from my studies of epic song, both globally and more specifically as one of the central genres of Mediterranean music. Metaphorically and narratively, the conversations in epic form around spaces in-between – between speech and song, oral and written tradition, the sea “between the lands,” and the very structural space in the line-by-line hemistiche structure of epics generally referred to as caesura. The division of epic lines by caesura is particularly prominent in Mediterranean epics, leading some scholars to interpret it as metaphorically representing the very in-betweenness of the Mediterranean itself. The other project I draw into conversation is my engagement over many years with the musical thought of Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803), whose writings on music I have translated for modern editions, and whose creation of a discourse around world music, by coining the term for and collecting folk songs (Volkslieder), distinguishes him as one of the foundational figures of modern ethnomusicology. Over the course of his lifetime, Herder returned again and again to translations of the great epic of the western Mediterranean, El Cid, which appeared in hundreds of subsequent editions that shaped what I call the nineteenth-century “Age of Epics” and influenced nationalism projects worldwide. At the centre of my talk will be Herder’s decision to translate the Cid from many sources in multiple languages by placing caesurae in each line. I reflect on the ways the resulting hemistiches symbolized the encounters of the western Mediterranean, especially the religious conflicts between Islam and Christianity that ushered in the Reconquista of the centuries following the Cid’s life and legend. I draw the Cid and caesura into conversations both historical and modern with illustrations from genres from the longue durée and popular culture alike.


Philip V. Bohlman, the Ludwig Rosenberger Distinguished Service Professor in Jewish History at the University of Chicago, is an ethnomusicologist with broadly conceived teaching and research interests. Music and religion form central subjects, ranging from Jewish music in the modern era to the interpretation of music in worship in North American religious communities to fieldwork in the Muslim communities of Europe and the multi-religious communities of India. His writings address issues at the intersections of music with race, nationalism, and colonial encounter; the ontological and ethical dimensions of music; and the social agency of aesthetics and performance. Among his many publications are The Land Where Two Streams Flow (1989); Jüdische Musik: Eine mitteleuropäische Geistesgeschichte (2005); Music in American Religious Experience; Jewish Music and Modernity (2006); Music, Nationalism, and the Making of the New Europe (2011); The Cambridge History of World Music (2013); Revival and Reconciliation: Sacred Music in the Making of European Modernity (2013); Song Loves the Masses: Herder on Music and Nationalism (with J. G. Herder, 2017); Wie sängen wir Seinen Gesang auf dem Boden der Fremde! Jüdische Musik der Aschkenas zwischen Tradition und Moderne (2019); World Music: A Very Short Introduction(2nd ed., 2020); and Heiner Müller and Heiner Goebbels’s: Wolokolamsker Chaussee (Bloomsbury, 2021). He is Artistic Director of the New Budapest Orpheum Society, a Jewish cabaret and ensemble-in-residence at the University of Chicago, whose fourth CD, As Dreams Fall Apart: Cabaret during the Golden Age of Jewish Cinema, 1925–1955, was a Grammy Award Nominee in 2016. Bohlman is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Corresponding Member of the British Academy. Among his awards are the Derek Allen Prize from the British Academy, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the 2018 Koizumi Fumio Prize of Japan. In 2019, he received the degree of Doctor honoris causa from the Romanian National University of Music Bucharest. He is Honorarprofessor at the Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover.

The event is free but is by registration only as numbers are limited. For any questions, please contact Matthew Machin-Autenrieth on

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