ICONEA 2014 Conference


Arithmetical Subjectivism or Unconscious Knowledge?

Sonic Systems of the Ancient Near East and beyond.

Are the sources for music theory, in the Ancient Near East, principally, and in the Ancient and Primitive Worlds, generally, the consequence of either the emergence of numeracy and its conventional metrology or do we find its roots in the unconscious knowledge, or both?

There is no restriction on the length of contributions which however, should not exceed one hour. (Power point projection and sound system available). Please send papers/abstracts to rdumbrill@iconea.org.

ICONEA 2014 

The Oriental Institute, University of Oxford

Pusey lane


 With financial contribution of the Institute of Musical Research, School of Advance Study, University of London


Wednesday December 10, 2014

1400:Welcome speech by Abuna Shafiq AbuZayd

Presentation of the Conference by Richard Dumbrill and Irving Finkel

14:30 – Leon Crickmore: The Ubiquity of the Diatonic Scale

There are an infinite number of possible pitches within any octave. Why is it, then, that in so many different cultures and ages musicians have chosen to divide the octave into some kind of diatonic scale? This paper seeks to demonstrate the ubiquity of the diatonic scale, and also to reflect on some possible reasons why this should be so.

15:15 – Gilles de Rosny:  Expression of the constitution of Aristoxenus’ musical scales in terms of mathematical functions.

Aristoxenus, unlike the Pythagoreans, neither used numbers, to quantify pitches, nor ratios, to express their relationship. Nevertheless, on the basis of audition alone, he proposed a classification of pitches relative to each other implying that the set was fully ordered. He characterised relations between two pitches using ‘intervals’ delimited by these pitches. We interpret these intervals in terms of functions acting on pitches. It is shown that the set of functions involved in the construction of pitches, by the ‘method of concords’ constitutes a commutative group allowing for an easy determination of pitch sets able to be tuned with this method, from a given pitch. However, it is noticed, many pitches proposed by Aristoxenus cannot be tuned in this manner. A way to express Aristoxenus’ scales in terms of sound frequencies is proposed.

16:00 – Coffee break

16:30 – Richard Heath: The Harmonically Numerical Form of Creation (and why it used to matter)

The Bible, Homer and other myths were largely written down long after their inception, as memorable oral narratives composed by a type of author who was not a writer. Though Plato’s Republic argued for a replacement of oral cultural norms, by introducing childhood literacy, Plato also saved the number science implicit in oral works from extinction through including it in his own literary output. A number science can develop without arithmetic through using only geometric procedures and these are to be found in the terminal Stone Age, famous for its enduring megalithic monuments. The talk will illustrate the structure of this harmonic science as it is found within historical texts and monuments, whilst suggesting that the harmonic ratios between astronomical periods would most simply explain why our oldest myths were orally composed cosmographies, skilfully woven around the invariant structure of numerical harmony and the sky, these being taken as responsible for creating the world.

17:15 – Tolga Zafer Özdemir: Harmonic Scale and Heptatonicism in Ancient Near Eastern Music

This presentation focuses on the usage of the Circle of Fifths in a chosen set of Ancient Near Eastern music tablets. Numerology reveals the identical sequence of harmonic scale (flat-sharp order) which is the main note placement order of Circle of Fifths.

  Thursday December 11, 2014

 09:00 – Howard Barry Schatz: The Mathematical Foundation of Greek Humanism & the Religious Levant: The Sefer Yetzirah; the Torah (Pentateuch); the Kabbalistic Tradition; Greek Humanism & the Religious Levant 

 09:45 – Rosy Azar Beyhom: Ibn aṭ-Ṭaḥḥān’s manuscript

This treatise abounds with music theory, tales and wisdom stemming from many sources. Whenever Ṭaḥḥān was unsure of a provenance or if he did not  know whence from it came, he would ascribe it to anyone. Oral tradition was still prominent in his times but did not constitute the only documental source for his writings. It is worth noting that collective knowledge about music theory and practice was common but that it seemed unconscious or pretended so to be at times, either for a purpose, or that it would be totally opened to suggestion. This presentation will discuss the status of musical knowledge and its many purposes according to Ṭaḥḥān.

 10:30 – Coffee Break

 11:00 – Bruno de Florence: Ignorance is a Passion

Within a short historical timeline, Copernicus threw away the earth from the centre of the universe, Darwin showed that we are the mere product of chance genetic mutations, and Sigmund Freud taught that there is knowledge which is not known. We shall explore the consequences of such a position with respect to what it is possible to know within the fields of aesthetics and science. 

 11:45 – Antony Perrot: Indications of Sonic System in the Psalms’ Headings?

While it is certain that the headings of certain Psalms gave musical indications, there is an ongoing heated debate about their value. Some of the Dead Sea scrolls seem to support the traditional Masoretic signs which nevertheless remain obscure and are real cruces interpretum. How should one interpret logia such as “For the director of music”, “Lament”, “The eighth” or “On soprano voice”? Where do they come from? Should they be linked to the Hurrian musical instructions such as those from Ugarit? Is it possible to recover the Sitz im Leben of these musical expressions through archaeomusicology?

 12:30 – Lunch Break

 14:00 – Pétur Halldórsson: The measure of the Cosmos

The programme introduced here is based on the research of the Icelandic scholar Einar Pálsson. (1925-1996) It examines the roots of Icelandic culture based on deciphering the philosophy of numbers in Icelandic parchments.

 14:45 – Theo J.H. Krispijn: Sumero-Babylonian music philology

Some cuneiform documents play an essential role in the reconstruction of ancient Near-Eastern musical theory and its mathematical background such as the tuning text fragments: UET VII no. 74 (U.7/80) and UET 6/3 899; the lexical texts: the 32nd tablet of the lexical series SIG7-ALAN = Nabnītu (MSL 16, pp. 251-254); and the list of strings and string combinations CBS 10996 (Kilmer, OrNS 29 (1960), 273-308). In my paper I will present a philological discussion of these documents in order to invite the musicologists to give their view on the musicological meaning of these texts. After this discussion we will look once again at the famous ‘Hymn of Ugarit’ (RS 15.30+ Laroche, Ugaritica 5 (1968), 447-544). I include the PDF my article in Hickmann, E.; Kilmer, A.D.; Eichmann, R. (ed.), Studien zur Musikarchäologie III, Orient Archäologie Band 10, Raden (2002), 465-479, as an introduction to my paper.

 15:30 – Amine Beyhom: A conscious forgery or an unconscious desire? The myth of ditonism in medieval Byzantine chant. 

 16:15 – Coffee Break

 16:45 – Margaux Bousquet: Shaping Music: an exploration of mathematical paradigms, from geometry to music in Ancient Near East

Very little  can be said about proto-literate music in the Ancient Near East. Undoubtedly, sonic orders preceded literacy. This paper will consider geometrical shapes, as evidence of unconscious mathematical concepts, and attempt at exploring musical possibilities through mathematical schemes based on this cognitive framework.

 17:30 – Pete Dello: An investigation of how man first began to seriously ‘play’ with numbers, and how, in third millennium Sumer, the results of  King Shulgi’s  ‘think tank’ changed everything.

The discovery of the sexagesimal system with its floating place value system, so intuitively explored by Professor Ernest McClain’s matrices, deeply influenced everything that followed, in music, geometry, astronomy, time keeping and mathematics; and how it had a such deep affect on surrounding cultures, including Plato and the Greeks. 

 20:00 – Lebanese Dinner at Aram House

 Friday December 12

 09:00 – Irving Finkel: Origins of list-making

 10:00 – Coffee Break

10:30 – Richard Dumbrill: Isotonism as forerunner of anhemitonism and diatonism in Ancient Mesopotamia

11:30 – Conclusions











4, 5 and 6 December, Senate House


Malet street, LONDON WC1E 7HU

Emergency phone number: 07930 150 600 – email: rdumbrill@iconea.org

Wednesday December 4, 2013, Room 104

1400 Registration

1500 Speeches: Paul Archbold, director of the institute of musical research; Irving Finkel, rIchard Dumbrill, ICONEA

 1530 Richard Dumbrill

          The problematics of musical theory transmission under the obnubilation of political and religious interference: before and after Berossus.

1630 Coffee Break

1700 Irving Finkel

          Babylonian into Greek at the end of the First Millennium.

Thursday 5, Room 104

1000  Coffee

1030 Leon Crickmore

          In Chapter 9, ‘Plato’s Musical Trigonometry’, of his book The Pythagorean Plato, Ernest McClain proposes a highly imaginative musical interpretation of the cuneiform tablet Plimpton 322. Unfortunately, the author’s omission of the first column of the text severely undermines his case. This paper re-assesses the musicality of Plimpton 322 and explores its possible connection with the musical cuneiform tablet CBS 1766.

 1130 Bruno de Florence

          Revisiting Plato’s Symposium, looking at its structure and at the two épainos from Aristophanes and Socrates. I will then propose a phenomenology of what I call the ‘act of transmission’ from a semiotic standpoint, which will include references to Peirce, Freud and Lacan.

 1230 Discussion and lunch

 1400 Piotr Michalowski

          There is a small number of cuneiform texts from ancient Mesopotamia that mention musical matters. Chronologically, these clay tablets come from different periods, spanning more than a millennium of literary practice. In this paper I will attempt to evaluate the place of these texts in the Mesopotamian written tradition and to evaluate the levels of stasis and change over the years.

 1500 Nick Stylianou

           Where Tetrachords Meet: Changing Perspectives on Modulation. 

          The transmission of classical music theory through Western tradition has influenced several structural distinctions and their associated terminology, such as the genera of tetrachords (diatonic, chromatic, enharmonic), systems of combination (conjunct, disjunct) and the naming of the modes (Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, etc.). At the same time the Western tradition has blended various distinctions, for example the notion of authentic/plagal modality compared with major/minor tonality, and the subtle distinctions of microtonality compared with the flexibility of equal temperament. My presentation provides with an organisational classification of scales highlighting the interaction between diatonic and chromatic genera of tetrachords and their conjunction and disjunction. This gives a perspective on the changing notions of the term ‘modulation’ within the Western tradition, and a potential bridge towards approaching concepts aspects of modality in non-Western traditions.

 1600 coffee break

 1630 Theo Krispijn

          2100 B.C. Break or Continuation in the Mesopotamian Musical Tradition? The earliest Mesopotamian texts with theoretical musical terminology come from the Old-Babylonian cities of Ur and Nippur  around 1800 B.C. The terminology is based on the handling of musical instruments. I will investigate to what extend musical instruments were newly introduced in the Ur III and Old-Babylonian periods or if they were used in earlier periods and consider if this terminology came from earlier. My sources are the iconography of musical instruments, Sumerian lexical and literary texts, especially the Shulgi hymns from the Early Dynastic to the Old-Babylonian period. Administrative documents from the Ur III period mentioning the production of musical instruments in workshops, the teaching of music, worship of divine instruments, and musical ensembles from Old Babylonian Mari.

 1730 Round Table

 Friday 5, Room G 35

1000 Coffee

 1030 Alan Prosser

          The history of the performance of the music of the Whirling Dervishes of Turkey are an interesting approach to a possible notation of their sacred compositions.  This presentation will attempt at answering  such questions as why did the Mevlevis not previously notate their music or did they consider that notation would not be sufficiently accurate.

1130 Richard Heath

          Transmission of Astronomical Musicality into Mythic Narrative.  

1230 Lunch Break

 1400  Theodora Psychoyou and Christophe Cordier

           This contribution focuses on the reception of the eight lines of Pindar’s first Pythic Ode with music notation published by Anthanasius Kircher in his 1650 Musurgia Universalis. He would have copied it from a manuscript found in a Sicilian Library. This fragment, now generally rejected as a fake or a pastiche, was considered, from Kircher till the twentieth century, as an important source of Ancient Greek Music although there were many doubts raised by scholars since the end of the eighteenth century (Charles Burney for instance), the First Pythic was regularly studied by many historians, especially August Böckh who, in his De Metris Pindari (1811), made of this fragment an authentically Greek musical document and a specimen of ‘Dorian music’. Other historians, from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Maurice Emmanuel, quoted the First Pythic in their essays, before the composer André Jolivet, influenced by Emmanuel, used it in his score Iphigénie à Delphes in 1943. Thus we intend to show how scholars and musicians, in a rational, scientific way, imagined Ancient Greece and recreated ‘Greek music’ on the basis of philological data considered as ‘genuine’ during three centuries.

 1500 Round table and conclusions.

 1800 Drinks

 Fees: £75 and £45 for concessions.

Click on this link for registration form.

For local hotels, please click on this link.

 For direction to Senate House, University of London, click on this link.

Click on this link for more information on ICONEA 











NOVEMBER 22, 23 and 24, 2012


Senate House

Chancellor’s Hall

Malet Street
London WC1E 7HU

This conference will welcome contributions in all aspects of the aerophone instrumental category: History, iconography, typology, organology, philology, etc.

There is no limitation as to the length of contributions, within reason (not more than one hour).

We are delighted to announce that this conference will be fully equipped with ‘up to date’ audio visual technology.

The fees are £75 for delegates and £45 for concessions for the three days. £30 per day, and £15 per day for concessions. A link will be provided for your registration and payment. This fee will include refreshments at breaks. Affordable meals can be taken at local restaurants.

For local hotels, please click on this link.

Please, send your abstracts as soon as possible to rdumbrill@iconea.org

Click on this link for your registration form

mail to: rdumbrill@iconea.org for all other matters or phone me on +447930150600

 For direction to Senate House, University of London, click on this link.

Click on this link for more information on ICONEA 


Thursday 22

1400: Registration

1430: Speeches: Paul Archbold, Irving Finkel and Richard Dumbrill

Chair: Irving Finkel

1445: Dumbrill

When is a pipe not a pipe?

I shall investigate so-called pipes, flutes, etc., from Neanderthalians, Cro-Magnons, etc. and up to to the literate Ancient Mesopotamians and later Mediterraneans.

1545: Tea/coffee Break

1615: Nicholas Stylianou

Diagrams, Cyclic Orderings and Aristoxenian Synthesis

Despite difficulties surrounding the authenticity of writings on classical Greek music theory they have nonetheless been highly influential in subsequent theoretical developments. The broad polarisation of the domain into the Pythagorean and Aristoxenian traditions reflects the tension between their respective numerological and phenomenological approaches to music theory. Between these extremes Aristoxenus identifies the Harmonicists, commending them for their interest in musical reality whilst criticising their grasp of musical logic. Written some six centuries later, Claudius Ptolemy’s Harmonics also stands out in attempting to reconcile reasoning and perception.
This paper employs contemporary diagrammatic representations of the various tetrachord species, as catalogued by Ptolemy, which form the building blocks of classical Greek musical structure. Particular attention is given to Aristoxenian criticisms of the Harmonicists’ lack of attention to musical synthesis and consecution, specifically the katapyknosis (καταπύκνωσις) or close-packing of their diagrams and their use of cyclic orderings limited to a single genus in the range of an octave.  It is hoped that the materials from this study may form the basis of a systematic framework against which these classical Greek music-theoretical constructs may be better understood.

1715 – 1800: Round table

Friday 23

Chair: Myriam Marcetteau

1000: Max Stern

Shofar: Sound, Shape and Symbol.

The shofar has always been considered a magical instrument associated with the revelation of God’s voice at Mount Sinai. Later, Joshua brought down the walls of Jericho with shofar blasts – in the ancient world, sound was known to influence matter. The shofar is the oldest surviving instrument still used in Jewish ritual. Its sound, shape, and symbolism are integral to the High Holiday Season. This lecture-demonstration exhibits a variety of shofar types and discusses their origins from animal to instrument through visual aids. It demonstrates the traditional shofar blast and deals with historical and symbolical issues aroused by it strident sonority. It concludes with a DVD presentation of the shofar as an artistic instrument, integrated into a contemporary biblical work by the author.

1100: Tea Break

 1130 : Malcolm Miller:

The music of the Shofar: ancient symbols, modern meanings.

The Shofar discussed in biblical and post-biblical literature, is associated with a rich nexus of metaphorical symbolism, which has evolved over the course of time, and includes such concepts as supernatural power, joy, freedom, victory, deliverance, national identity, moral virtue, repentance, and social justice. While modern definitions have focused on the instrument’s signalling, ‘non-musical’ character, there is evidence already in the ancient writings of its ‘musical’ function, whose potential to evoke a profound aesthetic response has led to multiple interpretations of its meanings. Composers in 20th-21st centuries have incorporated the shofar into their works as a powerfully eloquent musical resource, from Elgar’s The Apostles premiered in October 1903 to Jörg Widmann’s opera ‘Babylon’ premiered at the Munich Opera just a few weeks ago in October 2012. It is the purpose of this presentation to discuss these more recent uses of the shofar and the way composers interpret the shofar’s ancient symbolism in a contemporary context, thereby highlighting both its ceremonial/religious, and its musical/aesthetic qualities.

1230 : Lunch Break

Chair : Barnaby Brown

1400 : Bruno de Florence

Shofar, Totemism and Voice: a Freudian-Lacanian Approach

From a commentary by Jacques Lacan on a text by Theodor Reik, I shall attempt to outline how we can consider musical practices as incarnated thinking. Borrowing from the notions of perception (Merleau-Ponty), jouissance (Lacan) and libido (Freud), I shall propose a model of musical performance and its listening as a continuous path along a multidimensional Moebius strip, structured by the enigma of the real of the body. Shofar….

1600: Tea/coffee Break

1630: Myriam Marcetteau:

Wind instruments from the ancient near East to the Greco-Roman period.

This presentation will investigate the evolution of two types of aeropohones from the Ancient Near East to the Greco-Roman period. I will focus on iconographic, philological, historical and sociological clues, for evidence of their affiliation. Some sources are easily traceable, such as the link  between the Mesopotamian hierodulae  and the female players of the abub-instrument. Some others, even though the affiliation is more hypothetical, are worth researching: I will attempt at giving possible origins for the ancient oriental roots of the qarnu and of the tibia/aulos.

1730 – 1800: Round table

Saturday 24

Chair: Richard Dumbrill

1000: Alan Prosser with the participation of Tansy Honey:

The organology, musicology, theory and spirituality of the ney

The construction which has remained the same for at least 800 years, as shown from extant examples in the museums in Konya. I will describe the type of reed used, where they are found; their treatment and preparation; the making of the ney; its playing; its pitch range and the reason for having a pitch set of 34 within an octave. I will further discuss the Pythagorean and Sufi use of Makams for a deeper musical experience; how the intervals make it possible to assist with this process and give examples. I will discuss the possible source of makam construction extracted from the Ney and micro-tonalism, with examples.

1130: Peter Strauven/Jan M.F. Van Reeth:

The Organ on the Mosaic of the Musicians from Maryamin at the Museum of Hama, Syria.

The mosaic (end of 4th c. AD) found in 1960 in the village of Maryamin (Syria) is one of the most important iconographic sources discovered in the last decades. Not only the high quality of craftsmanship makes this mosaic an essential object in art history: it is also the unusual theme depicted here that deserves closer examination. The emblem of the mosaic portrays with rare precision a musical scene in real-life format: six female musicians and two boys are playing music in a concert setting, on a stage. One of the instruments used in this concert is a pneumatic organ. Illustrations of pneumatic organs in their early history are very rare (in contrast to the more popular hydraulis), but what is more: given the great quality of the mosaic, the level of detail and the preciseness of what is represented, this picture of the organ can be considered as exceptionally accurate.  In this way, the mosaic of Maryamin allows us to analyse this organ from different points of view. Since it is an essential source to our understanding of the construction of pneumatic organs in late antiquity, we will point to organological details (such as the bellows of the wind supply system) not only because these technical aspects made it possible to prove earlier hypotheses, but also because such construction particularities in the instrument betray several influences, which are also reflected in other details of the concert scene. These influences run parallel with our deductions from contemporary literary sources, allowing us to put forward some hypotheses concerning the possible origin of the pneumatic organ and the different contexts in which the eastern pneumatic organs were used.

1300: Lunch Break

1400:  Barnaby Brown

Problems playing a modern reproduction of the silver pipes of Ur.

1530 Tea/coffee Break

1600: Concert lecture

Omar Bashir and the Bashir school of ‘ud in Baghdad and beyond.

Munir Bashir who died in 1997 was one of the most famous Iraqi ‘udists in the Middle-East during the 20th century and a recognised master of the Arabian maqam.

Bashir’s music is characterised by a unique style of improvisation which is the consequence of his his study of Indian and European music in addition to Oriental forms.

Omar Bashir  was born in 1970 in Hungary.

At the age of five, he left Hungary with his parents to live in Iraq, where he was educated. The ‘ud he plays in performance is in the same he had as a child.

At the age of seven Omar studied at the Baghdad Music and Ballet School where he became a teacher in his late teens. He created his own ensemble of twenty-four musicians, specialising in classical Iraqi music. Omar’s performed with his father from the age of thirteen.


The death of his father marked a turning point in his musical career. He won many awards and on the first Anniversary of 9/11 was invited to play in the USA to raise funds for the Iraqi Symphony Orchestra which had been flown over on that occasion. Omar is certainly the most innovative ‘udist to date.
















Watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCIto3p4szc&list=UUFxSuILNUpLrpA_8k61_K5g&index=1&feature=plcp


Thursday 01

0900 1000    Registration/coffee

1100     Official opening with welcome speech by:

Paul Archbold, Irving Finkel and Richard Dumbrill

1200     Lunch (University restaurants at Senate House, Birkbeck College or at the School of Tropical Medicine)

The Oud in Near-Eastern Antiquity


1400     Piotr Michalowski: Strings and Things: The Cultural Space of String Instruments in Early Mesopotamia.


1500     Theo Krispijn: The Lute in Ancient Mesopotamia and its Socio-Cultural Context.


1600     Coffee/tea break

1630     Richard Dumbrill: The Oud from its possible Uruk origins origins in the iconography and the philology, and subsequent developments during the Akkadian period.


1730     Margaux Bousquet: A small lute from the Sukkalmah period of Susa and its reconstruction.


1800     Round table on the topics of the session.

Friday 2

The Oud in the Middle East


1000     Malcolm Miller: The ‘Ud as a symbol of Middle-Eastern Cultural Dialogue: Radical Fusions in Recent Concert Music in Israel.


1100     Coffee Break

1130     Kiki Kennedy-Day: The veil and the oud: female musicians in the Islamic world

Assistant professor in the Dept. of Religious Studies at Manhattan College, Riverdale, NY

1230     Amine Beyhom: Presentation of NEMO-Online.


1300     Lunch break

The Oud in Ancient Egypt


1400     Ricardo Eichmann: Extant lutes from the New Kingdom and the Coptic Period of Ancient Egypt.


1500     Peter Zamarovský and  Dagmar Krejčí: An unusual depiction of a lute in the tomb of Rekhmire.



1600     Tea break

1630     Philippe Brunet: The absence of the lute in Archaic and Classical Greek organology.


1730     Round table on the topics of the session.

Saturday 3

The Oud in the Western and Eastern Mediaeval Period


0900     Amine Beyhom: Two persistent misapprehensions about the ‘ūd.


1000     David Halperin:  The Rasâ’il Ikhwân al-Safâ’of the Ikhwan al-Safa:  The seventh section on the making of instruments and their tuning, their construction and stringing.


1100     Coffe break

1130 Yaron Klein: Musical instruments as laboratories: experience and experimentation in al-Fārābī’s kitāb al-mūsīqī al-kabīr.


1230     Lunch break


1400     Frédéric Billiet: Presentation of Musicastallis. “Playing the luth” in medieval iconography.


1500     Matthias Wagner: The making of the modern oud.


1545     Tea break

1600    Jamie Ackers: The instrument as inspiration: The idiomatic expression of Hans Neusidler.


1645: Ahmed Mukhtar: Oud practice in Modern Times.


1730   General round table discussion.

 Click here to download the programme

Dinner at a local restaurant for about £20 each wines excluded.

For hotels, please click on the following link below:


Click on the link below for directions to the conference location:


Visit the conference hall:


For additional information, please write to:


landline: +44(0)2077515770

cell phone +44(0)7930150600




Richard Dumbrill and Margaux Bousquet represented ICONEA at the DAMASCUS CONFERENCE, ORIENTAL LANDSCAPE which was a great success. The Director of the Museum of Damascus has invited Richard Dumbrill to examine many objects excavated from various sites in Syria which have not yet been registered, in the hope that some of them will relate to archaeomusicology. Richard Dumbrill should go back for this assignment during the spring of 2012. The British Council, the Institut Francais du Proche Orientand the Danish Institute of Damascus have offered help to facilitate research of students under the supervision of Richard Dumbrill, for their field studies in the Middle East.