Announcement: New Film about Moondog, “The Viking of Sixth Avenue”

Filmmaker Holly Elson is creating a film called “The Viking of 6th Avenue,” which is about the avant-garde, and visually-impaired, musician Moondog, also known as “The Viking of 6th Avenue.” According to the film’s producer, it will include “a wealth of never before seen archival film/photos, home movies and rare audio recordings, as well as unique interviews with Moondog’s friends, family, collaborators and musicians who cite him as an influence including Jarvis CockerJohn ZornDebbie Harry, Damon AlbarnPhilip Glass and many more.” Additional information about the forthcoming film is featured on the official Facebook page and web site.

Disability News for AMS/SMT 2014: Accessibility Pledge

The American Musicological Society’s announcements site for the AMS/SMT 2014 joint meeting in Milwaukee features an accessibility pledge, and a list of accessibility features for the 2014 conference. The pledge, which can be read on the conference web site and the conference accessibility page, is copied below:

Recognizing the contributions that scholars with disabilities have made and continue to make to the field of musicology, and in keeping with its commitment to the principles of inclusiveness and equal access, every effort will be made to meet the unique requirements of all attendees. Click here for more information and a list of accessibility features at the conference facilities.

The list of accessibility features also includes links to the AMS and SMT Guidelines on Accessibility and Accommodations for Members with Disabilities. The features listed are specific to the Milwaukee conference venues.

Many thanks to the ad-hoc committee on accessibility, which works towards improving accessibility for all conference delegates of AMS and SMT meetings.

Guest Post by Meghan Schrader, announcing the newly-formed Society for Disability Studies Interest Group on Disability and Music

Meghan Schrader received her M.A. in Music at the University of New Hampshire, and is the author of an article in the forthcoming collection Anxiety Muted: American Film Music in a Suburban Age, which will be published by Oxford University Press.

I am pleased to announce that the first meeting of the Society for Disability Studies music interest group was held recently at the national Conference of Disability Studies. The group was conceived around the original concept of musicology, described by Joseph Kerman in Contemplating Music, as having ranged “from the history of Western music to the taxonomy of primitive music, as it was then called, from acoustics to aesthetics, and from harmony to counterpoint to piano pedagogy.”

I find this definition is useful for our purposes: scholars in disability studies approach music in a variety of ways. We may be professional musicologists, or we may teach or study fields outside of music, such as English or Philosophy. In contrast to the breadth of methodological approaches to the study of music and disability, music is a distinct discipline with particular genres, history, and cultural practices; which differ from other forms of human expression. Hence, my hope is to provide a forum for SDS attendees to discuss music within a broad musicological framework. I also hope that doing so might foster collaboration with scholars who are affiliated with the AMS and SMT Disability Study Groups, in hopes that our divergent experiences might enrich each other’s scholarship.

By drawing on the increasing body of work related to music and disability, this group will consider the following questions: How can our work best reflect the interdisciplinary nature of disability studies? How does and should such musicology intersect with related fields, such a film studies, sound studies, and identity studies? What is music’s potential to reify or subvert cultural conceptions of disabled people, performers, and composers? What can disability studies contribute to music pedagogy? How might these contributions add to or change 19th century standards of musicianship that currently determine the practice of music? Can the social critique which often accompanies the analysis of narrative music also be applied to interpretations of absolute music? How can the analysis of music be integrated with ethical issues encountered in Disability Studies? What has disability studies to teach musicology, and what does musicology have to contribute to disability studies? How do nuances within disability identity impact our respective experiences as scholars, and particularly within the musicology/disability studies communities?

Our first meeting attracted scholars from a variety of different backgrounds and research interests, including:

  • Presidential campaign music, opera on YouTube, and Freakery
  • Music performance and, deafness in music with a focus on Evelyn Glennie and Christine Sun Kim
  • Film music, particularly horror film soundtracks and film music of the 1950s
  • Elitisim in music education
  • Film music and studies of “The Beast with Five Fingers,” “Pride of Manres,” and Al Schidt and blindness
  • Studies of Porgy and Bess and contemporary music
  • Songwriting/performance with a focus on clinical psychology and metal music

We began the process of organizing one or more interdisciplinary panels for next year, in which we hope to bring these divergent interests together. True to the familial spirit of SDS, we also discussed the possibility of an “open mic night,” in which music scholars could not only meet for discussion, but also perform for each other.

We noted that SDS has had several music panels over the years, but that scholars who frequently attend SDS might be less likely to attend AMS, SAM or SMT meetings. Similarly, frequent participants in the latter conferences rarely attend SDS. Hence, another goal is to establish more frequent interactions and communication between scholars affiliated with these respective organizations. We would like to encourage these scholars to enrich both conferences with their presence and contributions.

Those wishing to participate in a panel should submit their abstracts to Meghan Schrader (meghanschrader at, Jessica Holmes (jessica.holmes at, and Dana Gorzelany-Mostak (dana.gorzelany-mostak at by October 31, 2014. The Society for Disability Studies Music Interest Group also has a Facebook presence.

Recasting Music: Body, Mind, and Ability, with TOBIN SIEBERS

The bi-annual joint meeting of the AMS and SMT is approaching in November 2014, and DISMUS group plans a provocative, interdisciplinary evening session titled “Recasting Music: Body, Mind, and Ability”. We will feature six 10-minute position papers (by Michael Bakan, Stephanie Jensen-Moulton, Jessica Holmes, Blake Howe, Jennifer Iverson, and Joseph N. Straus) and three respondents: noted senior Disability Studies scholar Tobin Siebers (University of Michigan), senior musicologist Andrew Dell’Antonio (University of Texas at Austin) and his collaborator in ongoing neurodiversity research, Elizabeth J. Grace (National Louis University). In this highly interactive and interdisciplinary session, we will open a conversation that argues for the utility of bodily difference. We will (re)imagine a radically progressive social and cultural space, in which disability identity is made unstable based on its very ubiquity. Join us in striving toward more inclusive cultural scripts on Saturday, November 8, 8-11 p.m.!

We are currently raising funds for an honorarium for Tobin Siebers. The SMT is providing internet for Siebers to meet with us by Skype, but our Societies were not able to provide any money toward his honorarium. Please consider donating as you are able; our fundraising goal is several hundred dollars. This is a unique and rare opportunity for us to interact with a foundational, senior thinker in the field of Disability Studies, and likewise, for our musicological concern with disability to become more widely known to those active in DS. A further abstract for our session is included below. We THANK YOU for any donation you are able to make.

Click the button to make a donation (in $10 increments; adjust your quantity accordingly). Payments are collected via the AMS. Questions/concerns can be directed to Jennifer Iverson (

“Recasting Music: Body, Mind, Ability” Session Abstract

The interdisciplinary field of Disability Studies has radically reshaped our thinking by focusing on cultural representations of disability rather than bodily impairments and differences. In this way, Disability Studies shows that stigmas do not lie in impaired bodies, but rather in the exclusionary cultures that reject disabled bodies. Some disability scholars have recently sought alternative strategies for collapsing this binary opposition between abled and disabled, proposing instead an inclusive mode of embodiment that encompasses the diversity of human morphology. Tobin Siebers, for example, has identified a progressive “disability aesthetics” as a key feature of modernism, in which “the systemic oppression of disabled people would fail, and fail precisely because it could no longer be based on human appearances, features, and conditions deemed inferior.” Linking life and art, he provocatively asks, “what would it mean to call a person sick without it being a disqualification? What would it mean to call an artwork sick without it being a disqualification? What is the relationship between these two questions?” (Siebers 2010, 56).

A series of short position papers will respond to these prompts from musicological, music theoretical, and ethnomusicological perspectives. Much previous scholarship on music and disability has identified and argued against the punishing cultural scripts that have constructed disability as a mark of deviance. In striving toward more inclusive cultural scripts, the speakers in this panel argue for the utility of bodily difference. We imagine the ramifications of a social and cultural space in which disability identity is made unstable by its very ubiquity. Michael Bakan advances an ethnographic approach to engaging with autism that privileges neurodiversity over pathology and cultural relativism over medical/therapeutic intervention. His presentation draws upon a decade of ethnomusicological fieldwork and musical experience with Autistic people. Stephanie Jensen-Moulton argues that American opera in particular has served as a lively locus for manifestations of disability both through its foregrounding of disabled operatic characters and through operatic works by composers and writers who claim their disability as part of the creative process. Jessica Holmes explores notions of vocality in Deaf performance artist Christine Sun Kim’s piece Face Opera II. Kim’s staging of a silent, embodied voice inspired by the facial nuances of ASL, and a second audible, “scandalous” voice fosters a dynamic type of listening that engages multiple senses and subverts the traditional coupling of voice and audibility.  Blake Howe focuses on the conflict that may emerge between the visual and aural performances of disability; through these sensorial incongruities, music has the potential to expose the constructed nature of the disabled body. Jennifer Iverson, expanding on her earlier work on Björk’s electronica, investigates the implied bodies found in electronic musical works, chronicling a number of examples where technology complicates the hypothetical able-bodied subject. Focusing on the phenomenon of “hearing voices” (medicalized as “auditory hallucinations”), Joseph N. Straus explores how notions of idiocy and madness are frequently thematized in music; this provides valuable context for assessing different models—spiritual, medical, and cultural—of disabilities often medicalized as “mental illnesses.”

Our three respondents for the session are Tobin Siebers, author most recently of Disability Theory (2008) and Disability Aesthetics (2010); and Andrew Dell’Antonio and Elizabeth J. Grace, who are collaborating on a study of the “musicking” perspectives and phenomenological approaches to listening of neurodivergent/Autistic adults.

GSIM Graduate Students in Music at CUNY Graduate Center 2014 conference on Music and Normativity

The GSIM conference on music and normativity is currently in progress in NYC, and you can live-stream the events here. Today’s events, beginning at 10:30AM EST, include a workshop on scoring disability narratives by musicologist Kendra Preston Leonard. View the GSIM web site for information about the workshop, conference presentations from yesterday, and presenters’ abstracts and bios

Music and Disability at the SDS (Society for Disability Studies)

We are pleased to announce that our panel entitled, “Music, Disability, and Freakery: Sustaining Able-bodiedness” was accepted for the upcoming Society for Disability Studies conference in Minneapolis (June 11-14, 2014). We hope to see some of you there!

“The Two-Headed Nightingale and the Marketing of Grotesque Respectability” (Dana Gorzelany-Mostak, Westminster Choir College of Rider University & Remi Chiu, Loyola University Maryland)

” ‘Asylums with Doors Open Wide’: Ian Curtis, “Atrocity Exhibition,” and the Myth of the Romantic Genius” (Mimi Haddon, McGill University)

” ‘I Feel Very Proud to be Hideous’: Bradford Cox and the Performance of Disability” (Jessica Holmes, McGill University)

” ‘All of us are Ahabs’: Jake Heggie’s Operatic Moby-Dick (Stephanie Jensen-Moulton, Brooklyn College, CUNY)

(Jessica Holmes, panel organizer/moderator)
Live music performance is a highly visual medium where extraordinary musical ability begets spectacle: the physicality of a virtuoso performer arguably plays as important a role in captivating an audience as the music itself. Visible disability only intensifies the spectacle inherent in music performance; a performer with culturally stigmatized bodily difference becomes even more the object of the gaze (Garland-Thomson; Howe; Straus). Likewise, fictional representations of disability in opera and on film tend to dramatize disability, strategically setting the disabled character apart by exaggerating bodily otherness with music figuring prominently in this characterization (Mitchell & Snyder; Leonard). Both in instances of disabled performance and fictional representations of disability, a version of disability identity is performed for and mediated by the onlooker, sustaining viewer normalcy and able-bodiedness.
This panel examines discrete episodes of musical “freakery” from the last two centuries, exploring how gender, race, and sexuality inform the cultural construction of the disabled freak and also highlighting the aural dimensions of this spectacle. Dana Gorzelany-Mostak and Remi Chiu analyze the musical exhibition of the conjoined twin singers Millie and Christine McCoy in relation to 19th-century conceptions of American personhood and racial identity. Mimi Haddon explores the impact early press reviews of Joy Division’s music had on the “enfreakment” of lead singer Ian Curtis, whose struggle with epilepsy and tragic suicide in 1980 have become so closely intertwined with discussions of the band’s oeuvre. Jessica Holmes considers the ways in which indie musician Bradford Cox flaunts his disabled body in an attempt to shock audiences, performing a transgressive reappropriation of “freakery” where sexual deviance is enmeshed with disability. Stephanie Jensen-Moulton examines how Jake Heggie’s idiosyncratic composition of Ahab in his operatic setting of Moby-Dick separates the man from his obsession, renegotiating operatic representations of madness.

Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss (AAMHL)

Here are some upcoming events from the Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss, including an April meet-up, a September concert, and three webinars with AudiologyOnline, which will address music listening with assistive hearing devices and technologies.