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David Magnus

E-Mail: magnus [at] schriftbildlichkeit.de


Ph.D. Project

"Notational iconicity of music notation. About coherences between spatialisation of music and composition"



The main focus of this dissertation is the concurrence of script and image in the beginnings of occidental composition (lat. componere: to organize, to amalgamate). Writing systems envelop more than the systematic organization of a symbol repertoire; they also imply phenomena of iconicity and gesture. Hereby iconicity is understood as the ability to examine scripts beyond syntax as a two-dimensional, graphically organized texture. Gesture is the scripture’s quality to visualize the message” as represented in its own structure.

Development of musical notation in the Occident between the 9th and 16th centuries provides significant evidence of the presence of these two characteristics in writing systems. This development was a non-linear one, since very diverging notation phenomena and dialects became accepted in parallel in different regions. In spite of this complex evolution, the ingenious enhancement of Greek and early neume notation by he anonymous author of the Musica enchiriadis, and the introduction of staves by Guido from Arezzo (ca.10th century) established a tendency toward spatial representation of music processes. Beginning with the diastematic neumes from Aquitaine (ca.1100) and the development of modal notation by the so-called “Notre Dame School”(ca.1170-1240) up until mensural notation (ca. 16th century), occidental music notation emerged as a technique which inaugurated an era of musical reflection and created the principles of modern composition.

The possibilities of perception and operation with written music signs shall be analyzed on the basis of sign, script and image theories. The study of the original manuscripts shall evidence, how notational iconicity activated a process of music theory through analysis and experimentation, through reflection and exegesis.


Curriculum Vitae

Since 04/ 2009

Associated member of the DFG-Research Training Group 1458 „Notational Iconicity" at the Free University Berlin

Since 10/2008

PhD at the Free University Berlin on „Notational iconicity of music notation. About coherences between spatialisation of music and composition“

12/2007 - 04/2009

Project manager at 2eleven – contemporary music projects

Since 12/2006

Realization of contemporary music projects with Klangnetz e.V.

10/2003 - 09/2008

Studies in Philosophy and Musicology at the Free University Berlin. Degree: Magister Artium.

06/2005 - 09/2008

Scholarship holder of the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation

10/2004 - 12/2007

Music composition lessons with Carlo Inderhees


Assistance in research-, correction- and set-up in the context of the interdisciplinary research project "Kulturen des Performativen" at the Free University Berlin for the volume „Instrumente in Kunst und Wissenschaft" (published 2006 by Verlag Walter de Gruyter)

02 - 10/2004

Collaboration at the German-Argentinian short film festival ArgenKino (Berlin)

03 - 12/2002

Studies in Philosophy at the Faculty for Philosophy and Literature of the University of Buenos Aires.

03/2000 - 07/2001

Entrance examinations at the University of Buenos Aires

03/2000 - 10/2001

Qualification as management assistant in wholesale and foreign trade (IHK Buenos Aires)


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