Show The Graduate Center Menu


Press Release: The Sight of Music:International Iconographers Gather at CUNY Graduate Center

Though we usually think of music in terms of how it sounds rather than how it looks, music historians have been looking at music for years, studying visual representations of musical subject matter to better understand music’s past. From November 5-8, the Research Center for Music Iconography at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (RCMI), in collaboration with the Crosby Brown Collection of Music Instruments at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, will host the largest meeting on music iconography ever held in the United States. With participants from over twenty countries, the conference will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of Emanuel Winternitz, the curator of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s music instrument collection and the cofounder of the RCMI.

Before the advent of photography, artworks such as paintings, drawings, tapestries, and etchings were the only source of pictorial representations of various events. This, of course, is true for musical performances as well. Music Iconography has been crucial in piecing together information about instruments that are no longer in use; playing techniques; 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, including details of the acoustics in historical settings, or the makeup and placement of musical ensembles; and the social function of music. In a sense, the sight of music has often been as important as the sound of music.

The opening ceremony of the conference will take place on November 5 from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the Austrian Cultural Forum (11 East 52nd Street). The conference will also be accompanied by two concerts. Mauricio Annunziata, the pianist from Barcelona, will perform a program of Spanish and Latin American music on November 6, 8:00 p.m., at the Baisley Powell Elebash Recital Hall, CUNY Graduate Center, (365 Fifth Avenue). The conference will close on November 8 at 6:30 p.m. at The Metropolitan Museum of Art with the concert of the newly established ensemble, The New York Victorian Consort. The Consort will perform rarely heard Victorian music for voice, concertina and piano. (Due to limited seating, members of the press interested in attending this concert should request tickets by e-mailing to

ll events and conference sessions are open to the press. For further information, including a complete list of sessions and abstracts of papers to be presented, please (212) 817-1992.

The Research Center for Music Iconography (RCMI) was established in 1972 by Barry S. Brook and Emanuel Winternitz to collect, catalogue, and research visual sources for music history, and serve as the American national center of the RĂ©pertoire International d=Iconographie Musicale (RIdIM). The center=s collections of photo-reproductions of artworks and indexes of artworks with musical subject matter kept in art collec­tions around the world are the major guides of this kind assembled in the U.S., providing easy access to visual representations of instruments or music-making scenes from antiquity to the early 20th century. The Center=s library has an extensive collection of cata­logues of temporary and permanent exhibitions of artwoks and instruments, and periodicals and books rele­vant to organology. The Center is today a part of the Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documen­tation. Both the picture collection and library may be visited by appointment. Since 1998 the center has published Music in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography, the only specialized periodical for music iconography published outside of Europe.

Submitted on: OCT 1, 2003

Category: Music Ph.D. - D.M.A