Material Cultures of Music Notation

20–22 April, 2018

Utrecht University, The Netherlands


With invited speakers, Roger Moseley (Music, Cornell University), Beth Williamson (History of Art, University of Bristol), and Kiene Wurth (Languages, Literature and Communication, Utrecht University).


Call for Papers

Since the late twentieth century, many of the arguments for an understanding of music as a social and cultural practice have proceeded from a critique of the centrality of the score in traditional music scholarship. In the current landscape of music studies, this critical move has been largely successful, with few scholars still considering notation an objective representation of music per se. However, this begs the question of how to conceptualize the role of musical writing, representation, and visualization in the cultural practice of music.

This international conference approaches notation not just as a vessel of music-theoretical knowledge, but as an object of social interaction and cultural exchange. It encourages an interdisciplinary approach to a topic that has been at the centre of musicology’s disciplinary identity, by engaging work in media studies, material culture, art history, science and technology studies, and sensory studies. It aims to bring together (ethno)musicologists and scholars in other fields working on a variety of forms of musical notation, to reconsider the nature of notation in terms of the mediation of cultural identity, creative agency, and the musical imagination, rather than the representation of musical structure.

We invite proposals for individual 20-minute papers. Proposals may consider any style, genre, or other aspect of music history, and we particularly encourage proposals on forms of notation and visualization in genres and practices that fall outside of the traditional scope of Western Art Music.

Suggested topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Notation and Performance: How do notations construct relations between performers? How might we consider the score a source of musical creativity in performance without assuming that notation “embodies” the music? How might notation, performance, and improvisation be entangled rather than opposed?
  • Notation and the Body: How does the visualization of music trigger the musical imagination, and how might other senses than vision and hearing be involved in the use of music notation? How do notations construct musicians’ embodied relation to their instrument, or vice versa?
  • Notation and Technology: How do new forms of technology necessitate or make possible new forms of musical notation? How does digitization of musical sources affect our relation to them?
  • Notation, Identity, and Exchange: How do certain repertoires communicate, construct, or obstruct ideas of tradition, community, or identity? How is the use of notation embedded in discourses of agency and authenticity? How have notions of copyright and the music industry influenced access to notation?
  • Notation and Ontology: How do notation systems construct ontologies of music? Are there alternative ways of considering notation to the traditional work-concept? (How) has this concept misrepresented the working of notations outside of the classical repertoire?
  • Notation and Knowledge: What does it mean to “read” music and how is musical literacy socially and culturally conditioned? What has been the role of notation in the construction of musicological knowledge and might non-traditional forms of notation construct other musicologies?

Proposals of 250-300 words should be sent as a .doc or .pdf attachment to, and must include the following: title, author(s), affiliation(s) (if any), email address, and technical requirements.

The deadline for proposals is 1 October 2017. Decisions will be communicated by 1 November 2017.

 Registration will open in December. Information about the conference—accommodation, travel information, draft programme and so on—will be available on our website:

The conference committee is: Dr Floris Schuiling and Eliane Fankhauser (Utrecht University), and Dr Emily Payne (University of Leeds).

This conference is funded through a Veni postdoctoral grant offered by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).