Special Events

Global Perspectives in Histories of Music Theory

Monday, The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room


This conference brings together music scholars and historians of science to develop new insights into global histories of music theory. Together, our participants investigate convergences and divergences across time and place. With talks on subjects including tuning theories in ancient China and court music in fifteenth-century Korea, this event explores how complex concepts in mathematics, cosmology, and artisanal practice arose in response to similar concerns around classifying pitches, modes, and instruments.

Organizers: Carmel Raz is a music theorist with the Society of Fellows at Columbia University; Lan Li is a historian of science with the Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience


1:00-1:15 Welcome

1:15-2:15 Keynote, Guangming Li, “Topics in the History of Chinese Music Theory”

Chair: Matthew Jones (Columbia)

2:30-4:00 Lightning Talk Panel: Emerging Work in Global Histories of Music Theory

Zoe Weiss (Cornell), “Telling Taxonomies: Colonial Organology in Safavid Persia”

Carlos Ramirez (Cornell), “Todos Juntos: Cross-cultural keyboard networks and identity politics in Late Medieval and Early Modern Spain”

Sadegh Ansari (Columbia), “Formation of music theory and translation of musical concepts in medieval Baghdad”

Qingfan Jiang (Columbia), “The ‘Miraculous European Art’: Jesuits and Western Music Theory in Late Imperial China

Mahir Cetiz (Columbia), “Tuning, Notation, and Theory in Turkish Classical Music”

Chair: Bert Hansen

4:00-4:30 Break

4:30-5:45 Roundtable: “What does it mean to engage with global histories?”

Andrew Hicks, Nancy Rao, Eben Graves, Kavita Sivaramakrishnan, Eugenia Lean

Moderators: Carmel Raz and Lan Li

5:45-6:15 Reception 

6:15-7:45 Comparative Conversations: “An Evening with the Monochord”

Joon Park, “Pitch-Pipes and the Monochord: Technological Influences in East Asian and Western Conceptualizations of Musical Pitches”

David Cohen

Guangming Li, “New Findings on Non-mathematical Methods of Constructing the 12-Lülü Chromatic Scale with the Monochord in Ancient China”

Respondent: Nathan Martin, “Global History, Material History, and the History of Music Theory”

Chair: Miki Kaneda

7:45-8:00 Closing Remarks:  Lan Li, “Theory and Historical Ontology”