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On the Interpretation of Signs: The Search for Meaning in Music Notation

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Event Series Event Series: The Quintessence of Music

September 30, 2021 @ 6:00 pm 8:00 pm CEST

On the Interpretation of Signs: The Search for Meaning in Music Notation

with Donna Coleman

Thursday September 30
9:00am PDT  | 12:00pm EDT  | 5:00pm BST  |  6:00pm CEST

The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end. It is the highest emblem in the cipher of the world. St. Augustine described the nature of God as a circle whose centre was everywhere, and its circumference nowhere. We are all our lifetime reading the copious sense of this first of forms.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays
1803 Boston MA – 1882 Concord MA

What in the hell have the notes got to do with the music?!
Charles Edward Ives
1874 Danbury CT – 1954 West Redding CT

If we gaze at the image above, many thoughts, ideas, interpretations come to mind. My tendency is to see astronomical phenomena. Total solar eclipse. Sunspot. Inverse full moon. End of a sentence; a separator. Centre of a universe; a generator.

The line suggests altogether different meanings. A horizon. An edge. ‘The bottom line.’ Another version of a separator. A blue highway across Kansas.

The origins of written language—the use of symbols to represent sounds—date back to c 4,000 BC and the ancient Sumerians. Their script, called Proto-Sumerian, consisted of marks pressed into soft clay using either the blunt or the sharp end of a stylus. Since that time, attempts to translate the aural experience of music into visual cues for its re-creation by a performer have evolved into a sophisticated but ultimately inadequate system of ‘notation.’ As a performer and researcher, world renowned concert pianist Dr Donna Coleman has spent six decades engaged in the daily challenge of turning a collection of black dots on a line into a narrative, yet wordless, aural journey.

In this two-hour webinar, divided into two forty-minute presentation sessions followed by twenty minutes for questions and debate, Coleman will lead a discussion about the perception and interpretation of signs and symbols at it relates to music notation. The discourse will encircle Coleman’s Music: It IS Rocket Science and the many disciplines that inform the study and contemplation and performance of music. We will explore the history of music notation and contemplate the notion of music as language. Coleman will demonstrate at the piano the diverse performance outcomes that arise from the often confusing, different published editions of a single work. Webinar attendees will be encouraged to actively engage in discussion, and they will be provided with links to materials that can be perused in advance of the scheduled session.

On Thursday September 30, Donna will open our monthly Community Call with a presentation and followed by discussion and Q&A.


Join our Zoom meeting via the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88489296199

If you would like to participate, have any questions or need any help just contact Eleanor Peat: eleanor@paricenter.com

Dr Donna Coleman is a world renowned concert pianist, recording artist, author, philosopher, and master teacher whose career spans a half-century, of which half has been based in Australia. She is also an accomplished weaver and photographer and an amateur but passionate astronomer and archeologist with a keen interest in the deep history of the US Southwest. As Head of Postgraduate Studies at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, she convened weekly thought-provoking seminars that explored relationships between music and other disciplines. Donna is writing a book entitled Dancing with the Piano, a collection of essays distilled from these sessions and from her many years of phenomenological engagement with her ultimate dance partner, the piano.


September 30, 2021
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm CEST