Show The Graduate Center Menu


Research Center for Music Iconography (RCMI)

The Research Center for Music Iconography (RCMI) was established in 1972 by Barry S. Brook with an assistance of Emanuel Winternitz, to conduct research into musical subject matter represented in artworks. Before musical events were photographically documented, artworks were the only source of pictorial representations of various events, and therefore crucial in assisting us with information about music history, such as:

  • instruments (some of them no longer in existence) and their structure, playing techniques, and use in ensembles; performers and composers;
  • the relationship of the type of instrument to social class, gender, and cultural milieu;
  • the symbolism of music and its meaning within a given social, theological, and philosophical framework;
    musical notation;
  • performance settings (concert halls, theaters, opera houses, and outdoor music), including details of the acoustics in historical settings, or the makeup and placement of musical ensembles;
  • the social function of music: religious, mythological, civic, military, and everyday.


RCMI was established as the American national center and the international headquarters of the RĂ©pertoire International d’Iconographie Musicale (RIdIM), an international project aiming to create and maintain access to the sources of music iconography. RCMI’s collections of photo-reproductions of artworks, catalogue entries, and indices is the only such guide assembled in the U.S. where one can easily locate visual representations of any instrument or music-making scene from antiquity to the early 20th century. The activities of the Center are:

  • maintaining and enlarging a collection of about 20,000 music-related images, as well as reference files on instruments;
  • scholarly research on topics related to representations of music, performance practice, and instruments in the visual arts;
  • researching iconographic material for book publishers, instrument makers, and record labels to enable them to make the fullest use of visual materials;
  • cataloguing images of instruments and music-making kept in American museums;
  • publishing RIdIM/RCMI Newsletter (1975-1997), Music in Art (since 1998); and RIdIM/RCMI Inventories of Music Iconography (since 1987);
  • maintaining a reference library with books and periodical literature on music represented in the visual arts, as well as catalogues of permanent instrument collections and temporary music-related exhibitions;
  • keeping a current bibliography of scholarly literature on music iconography;
  • organizing temporary exhibitions and scholarly meetings about topics related to music iconography.

Zdravko Blazekovic

Director, Adjunct Associate Professor
Central Office of CUNY
Room 3492

Phone 212-817-1992