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