Sheet Music Goes Viral: On the Past and Present of Music Notation as an Object of Aesthetic Significance

Dr. Robert Komaniecki (University of British Columbia)

Monday, July 1, 2024, 19:00 CEST | Montag, 1. Juli 2024, 19 Uhr MESZ – online via Zoom


Almost as long as music notation has existed, it has served multiple functions, not just a method for communicating musical instructions, but also as decoration, visual art, or an attention-grabbing device meant to evoke ›music‹ as an idea. In this talk, I will outline the history of music notation as a visual device. Then, I will discuss the implementation of music notation across several social media platforms, ending with a look into a community that is formed around images of sheet music. I want to consider several questions that I think are crucial to modern music scholars. What does the public’s relationship with Western music notation mean for classical music? What goals impel people to use music notation as a decoration? How should music academics contend with the function of music notation in an attention economy? And, perhaps most importantly: What can our collective, societal relationship with the visual components of music notation tell us about music more generally?

Robert Komaniecki is a passionate musician, communicator, and educator. Born and raised in Minnesota, USA, Robert earned his B.A. and M.A. in music theory from the University of Minnesota. Robert received his PhD in music theory with a minor in music history from Indiana University. Robert’s scholarly interests include popular music, film music, video game music, and hip hop. His 2019 dissertation, Analyzing the Parameters of Flow in Hip Hop, is an analysis of vocal deliveries in rap music from the standpoint of rhyme, rhythm, and vocal pitch. Robert’s scholarly writing appears in various publications, including Music Theory Online, Intégral: The Journal of Applied Musical Thought, and the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy. Outside of academia, Robert is an avid choral singer and has sung in several community and professional ensembles. From 2013–2015, Robert served as the director of OVation, a community LGBTQ chorus in Minneapolis, Minnesota.