Past Event

Colloquium: Giulia Accornero (Yale University): "Theorizing Musical Time in al-Fārābī’s 'Great Book of Music'"

February 23, 2024
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
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2960 Broadway, 621 Dodge Hall, New York, NY 10027

Friday, February 23rd at 3pm in Dodge 622

Talk Title: "Theorizing Musical Time in al-Fārābī’s Great Book of Music"

This talk examines the role that imagination and experience play in the music-theoretical work of polymath Abū Naṣr Muḥammad al-Fārābī’s (d. 950), particularly in his theorization of musical time. While we often conceive imagination as a mental activity, a close reading of the Introduction to Book I of the Great Book of Music as well as passages from his Enumeration of the Sciences reveals its profound materiality and the ways in which it ultimately shapes notions such as musical motion, speed, and duration. I contend that by appealing to the readers’ imagination, al-Fārābī aimed to produce virtual experiences that would ultimately train his readers into skillful listening: the ability to “move through the notes” given the correct projection of rhythmics patterns (ʾīqāʿāt). Engaging with the activities involved in the production of musical knowledge (the theorizing, rather than the theory) allows me to put into discussion the elementary building blocks of al-Fārābī’s system—the notion of temporal duration (zamān) in particular—and model one of the tasks facing the history of music theory today: interrogating the basic concepts at the basis of our music theoretical systems and training and foregrounding the contingencies involved in their formation.

Speaker Bio: Giulia Accornero is Postdoctoral associate at Yale University, where she will transition in her role of Assistant Professor in music theory in fall 2024. She specializes in media theory and the global history of music theoretical practices, focusing in particular on early Arabic music theory. Recent articles also examine how new and old media as well as audile techniques predicate new modes of listening to music and identifying its elements. Her first book project investigates the cultural, cognitive, and material practices through which medieval music theorists from Baghdad to Paris made sense of musical time. Her project Tartīb, a digital resource that aims to lower entry barriers to the study of Arabic music theory (750-1300 CE), was awarded grants by the AMS and the Medieval Academy of America and will be published in 2025. She is co-founder and co-chair of the AMS Notation, Inscription, and Visualization Study group and editor of the History of Theory study group blog. Before arriving at Yale, Giulia obtained her PhD in Music Theory at Harvard University and served as a Graduate Fellow (2020) at The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies at Villa i Tatti.