Iconography as a Source for Music History – RMA Study Day

9th Nov 2019, SOAS University of London

Poster version of Call for Paper is also available at RMA website: https://www.rma.ac.uk/rmawp/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/FINAL-CfP-Music-Iconography.pdf

The RMA Committee is pleased to announce a call for contributions to the 5th Study Day of 2019. We are seeking proposals in line with the theme of ‘Iconography as a Source for Music History’.

According to Ann Buckley (1998), the research objectives, methodology and significance of music iconography as a sub-discipline is as follows:

Music iconography is concerned with the study of the visual representation of musical topics. Its primary materials include portraits of performers and composers, illustrations of instruments, occasions of music-making, the use of musical imagery for purposes of metaphorical or allegorical allusion. It is thus an important resource the study of both music and the visual arts, including questions of patronage, reception history, social and intellectual history, philosophy and aesthetics, as well as more strictly technical matters such as organology, music theory, performance practice and contexts, and the study of artistic styles and symbolic meanings. Depictions of musical scenes may also include representations of associated performance arts such as dance and drama, as well as of kinds of space in which such activities take place. Bringing musicological knowledge to bear on the analysis images can also contribute valuable insights to the fields of art history, and drama and theatre studies. [1]

With the intention of encouraging academic communication and potential collaboration, we are particularly interested in proposals representing various aspects of the current research in music iconography. Possible topics include[2]:

  • Structure and playing techniques of musical instruments in iconography
  • Relationship between musical instruments and social class, gender, ethnicity etc.
  • Symbolism of music in philosophical, social, and theological contexts
  • Social function of music from an iconographical perspective
  • Performance settings and acoustics of performance halls
  • History and development of music iconography as a discipline

As the theme requires interdisciplinary collaboration, proposals from researchers with backgrounds in Art History, Visual Arts, the Classics, Assyriology, Islamic Studies, Oriental Studies or any other regional studies are especially encouraged to submit a proposal.

Keynote lecture: ‘Music for Swinging: listening to Rajput courtly painting’ by Dr. Richard Williams (SOAS University of London)

Please submit all proposals to Patrick Huang (rma.iconography@gmail.com) with the following information:

  • Abstract (max. 300 words)
  • Submission type: paper or poster
  • Author information: name, email, affiliation and position
  • Author’s biography (optional, max. 150 words)
  • Any special technical requirements (optional)

The deadline for submission is 1st Sep 2019

All submissions will be considered through peer-review by the conference committee members:

  • Dr. Susan Bagust (RMA)
  • Prof. Stefan Hagel (Vienna)
  • Prof. Bo Lawergren (CUNY)
  • Dr. Claudina Romero Mayorga (Reading)

This study day is kindly supported by the Royal Musical Association (RMA) and SOAS University of London.


[1] Buckley, A. (1998). Music Iconography and the Semiotics of Visual Representation. Music in Art, 23(1/2), 5-10.

[2] Partially referred from Research Center for Music Iconography: https://www.gc.cuny.edu/Page-Elements/Academics-Research-Centers-Initiatives/Centers-and-Institutes/Barry-S-Brook-Center-for-Music-Research-and-Documentation/Research-Center-for-Music-Iconography-(RCMI)