Call for Papers: Marks of Music. Sound and Notation in the Early Modern Period

Job Offer from September 28, 2022

May 17–19, 2023
Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History, Rome

The research group "Visualizing Science in Media Revolutions” of the Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History in Rome invites historians of music, art, science, books, and media who deal with any form of music notation and sound visualization in their research to share their work in the workshop “Marks of Music: Sound and Notation in the Early Modern Period.”

This workshop addresses the manifold uses and trajectories of notating and visualizing music in the early modern period (ca. 1400 to 1800). During this time, European music notation became increasingly standardized and more closely resembled what most people recognize today. Nonetheless, music notation was never a stable object and its history is not linear (Kaufman 1967; Widess 1996; Tanay 1999; Rankin 2018; Ratzinger, Urbanek and Zehetmayer 2021). This workshop goes beyond simply tracing how notation formats arrived at their current forms; rather, it aims to explore the cultures and practices surrounding the concept of “notation” throughout the early modern period. Among natural philosophers, mathematics, travelogue authors, physicians and court composers, music notation was put to various uses and can be considered within the broader framework of scribal culture. Research on scribal practices has demonstrated that printed and scribal modes of dissemination were foundational in the construction of knowledge and in the “information revolution” of the early modern world (Blair 2010; Leong 2019).

Musicologists in turn have investigation “cultures of notation” in which music notation is central in mediating social and creative agency (Schuiling 2019). Building on this scholarship, the workshop aims to situate music notation within a broader context of scribal and print culture, comparing different forms of notation and the visualization of music across genres and cultural spheres. The program also explicitly addresses forms of notation outside the European canon; the role of notation as mediation between different cultures; and under-investigated forms of transcribing or capturing sounds.

This workshop invites historians of music, art, science, books, and media who engage with various forms of music notation and sound visualization in their research. It asks: How did notation and music visualization function as a medium of storage and transmission? What was the relationship between notation and other forms of sonic media such as books, instruments, voice, and the body? How was notation utilized to visualize sound and time? What was the relationship between music notation and other forms of note-taking?

By expanding the understanding of notation across a wide variety of media and disciplines, this workshop builds on a growing body of literature on music notation and material culture (Schuiling and Payne 2022); the complex relationship between the written and the oral (Treitler 1981; Ochoa Gautier 2014); theories of notation between text, diagram, and image (Nanni 2015); and music notation as a technology with its own specific affordances and aims (Goodman 2018; Magnusson 2019; Zazulia 2021).

Topics could include but are not limited to:

  • Notation as a method of visualizing sound and time
  • Global practices of transcribing and notating music
  • Music and iconography
  • Notation between orality and writing
  • Notation methods, accessibility, and class
  • Notation as a medium or cultural technique
  • Music in paintings
  • Notation as a technology of empire
  • Innovation and failure in forms of notation
  • Notation, instrumental practices, and memory
  • The relationship of music notation to other forms of note-taking and transcribing
  • Diagrammatic representations of sound and music

The workshop will take place in-person at the Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History in Rome, Italy in accordance with the local COVID restrictions.

This workshop will consist of 30-minute papers and will take place on 17–19 May 2023. Accommodation and reimbursement towards travel will be available. Scholars in musicology, art history, visual studies, book history, media studies and history of science from all career phases are encouraged to apply. For those unable to travel to Rome for whatever reasons, digital presentations are considered, please indicate this in your application.

To apply, please send an abstract of no more than 300 words and a short bio of no more than 150 words to with the subject line “Marks of Music”. The deadline for abstracts is 5 December 2022. Applicants will be notified in late December. For queries, please contact Leendert van der Miesen (

Scientific organizers: Leendert van der Miesen (Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History) and Sietske Fransen (Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History)

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