Music and Disability Events at AMS/SMT in Vancouver

The AMS Music and Disability Study Group (MDSG) and the SMT Interest Group on Music and Disability (SMT IG) are pleased to announce the following papers and meetings at the joint annual meeting of the American Musicological Society and Society for Music Theory in Vancouver (3–6 November):

1. The MDSG and SMT IG are co-sponsoring a special session on music pedagogy and disability, “Cripping the Music Theory/Music History Curriculum,” to be held during the Thursday evening session from 8–10 PM in Grand Ballroom A.

The session will feature presentations on integrating music and disability as a common perspective within the standard core curriculum in music history and music theory. Following the presentation, and in response to each paper, six scholars of music and disability studies will conduct a roundtable discussion on music, disability, and pedagogy.

Program committee and organizers:

Samantha Bassler (New York University and Westminster Choir College of Rider University), chair, AMS Study Group on Music and Disability
Bruce Quaglia (University of Minnesota, Twin Cities), chair, SMT Interest Group on Music and Disability

Roundtable of Respondents:

Michael Bakan (Florida State University), Andrew Dell’Antonio (The University of Texas at Austin), Blake Howe (Louisiana State University), Stephanie Jensen-Moulton (Brooklyn College, City University of New York), Laurie Stras (University of Southampton), Joseph Straus (The Graduate Center, City University of New York)

Participants and Mini Abstracts:

William Cheng (Dartmouth College): “Inspiration Porn: A Classroom Quandary”

Here’s what I have learned from my students: teaching disability in the music classroom poses a challenge because music is Ability Studies. In my paper, I present the obstacles and rewards in teaching cases of inspiration porn to undergraduates via overcoming narratives on reality television. I conclude with the quandaries of instilling values of cynicism versus optimism in my students: that is, a wholesale rejection of inspiration porn versus the tempered recognition that, if or when we do allow ourselves to be moved, different wisdoms may nonetheless come to us in kind.

Robin Wallace (Baylor University) and Jeannette Jones (Boston University): “The Deaf Composer: Teaching Beethoven”

Our presentation outlines a class session that begins with myths about how Beethoven experienced music, drawing on media depictions and familiar stories. We offer a more nuanced discussion of deaf musical experience based on interviews with current deaf musicians and bring this to bear in Beethoven’s music by examining some of his manuscripts and sketches that indicate Beethoven experiencing music in visual and tactile ways.

James Deaville (Carleton University): “Teaching ‘Madness’, Teaching Schumann: A Workshop

This presentation aims to open up a dialogue about how we present the lives and works of composers who experience the disability of madness, through a workshop on teaching Robert Schumann. Based on our knowledge of his life and works, we—the panelists and audience—will collectively reflect on pedagogical approaches to Schumann and his madness, which in turn can inform our teaching of other “mad” composers.

Stefan Sunandan Honisch (Vancouver, British Columbia): “Disability Aesthetics as a Pedagogical Framework: Implications for the Study of Piano Repertoire”

This lecture-recital suggests ways of applying an aesthetics of disability to the curricula of undergraduate courses in piano repertoire. I will demonstrate my approach through two case studies: Frederic Chopin’s Fantasie in F minor, and Cesar Franck’s Prelude Chorale and Fugue, two works which demand very different kinds of virtuosity from the performer, and which therefore configure the reception of the bodies of performers according to necessarily divergent aesthetic frameworks. In exploring the ways that discourses of virtuosity implicitly and explicitly write the disabled body out of large-scale piano repertoire of the nineteenth century, my lecture-recital simultaneously engages the musicological and pedagogical limits of a disability-aesthetics approach.

2. The joint business meeting of the AMS MDSG and the SMT IG on Music and Disability will be held on Saturday, 12:15–1:45 PM (Port McNeil Room).

During the meeting, a forum will be held on new scholarship in music and disability studies, to introduce new scholars and further discussion about topics of mutual interest. The workshop participants are Feilin Hsiao, University of the Pacific; Virginia Whealton, Indiana University at Bloomington; Alejandro Tellez Vargas, University of North Texas; Tekla Babyak, Cornell University.

An agenda will be posted prior to the start of the conference. Please e-mail Samantha (s.e.bassler at merton dot oxon dot org) if you have an item of business for the meeting.

3. There are a two other papers featured on the conference program that pertain to music and disability studies:

  • On Thursday afternoon, Erin K. Maher (Delaware Valley University) will present a paper entitled, “The Lens of Disability in Darius Milhaud’s Postwar U.S. Reception” (3:30–4:15 PM, Junior Ballroom D)
  • On Saturday afternoon, Michael Accinno (University of California, Davis) will present a paper entitled, “A Music Conservatory for the Blind” (2:00–2:45 PM, Pavilion Ballroom B )

Please e-mail Michael ( to publicize any other details about music and disability events at AMS/SMT.

Introducing Gaelynn Lea

Fellow disability studies-and-music community, meet Gaelynn Lea.* She is a freelance musician, songwriter, and violin teacher who hails from Duluth, MN. She’s recently gained notoriety as the winner of NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest, a contest for “intimate video performances recorded at the desk of All Things Considered’s Bob Boilen.” Gaelynn’s submission won out of over 6,000 entries, and has been called “arresting” and “profoundly moving.” Gaelynn’s Tiny Desk concert puts her among the ranks of musicians such as Wilco, Natalie Merchant, Graham Nash, and Ben Folds! Watch here:

As it happens, Gaelynn has brittle bone disease. Because her body is small, she bows her violin like a cello. She uses a loop pedal to multiply her instrumental melodies, creating a rich textural fabric that undulates beneath her ethereal mezzo-soprano. As she explains, a live loop pedal is an ever-precarious choice: “Every time you start song, you could potentially screw the whole thing up.” Gaelynn seemingly had good access to music in public school; after aceing a music listening test in fifth grade, she began playing the violin with an orchestra teacher devoted to making adaptive accommodations. Gaelynn took a serious interest in Irish fiddle tunes in high school, and hasn’t stopped playing since. Now she’s a free-lance music teacher and performer.

In an NPR interview, worth a listen for her biographical and artistic reflections, Gaelynn speaks about the relationship between her disability and her music. Her submission video begins with herself out of the frame, a conscious artistic choice, as Gaelynn explains: “I didn’t necessarily want my disability to be the very first impression people had. It’s not because I’m ashamed of it in any way, but I really wanted my music to be judged.” We hear you, Gaelynn.

*Thanks to David Bashwiner (University of New Mexico) for drawing my attention to Gaelynn’s work.


CFP: Cripping the Music Theory/Music History Curriculum at AMS/SMT in Vancouver

CFP: Cripping the Music Theory/Music History Curriculum
Special session of the AMS and SMT groups on Music and Disability, AMS and SMT Joint Conference in Vancouver, 3–6 November 2016

The Oxford Handbook on Music and Disability Studies (2015) demonstrates how disability studies is a lens to understand music and cultural studies throughout music history, and how music and disability informs analyses of music. The book brings music and disability studies to a wider audience of music scholarship, and many contributors have entertained questions from peers who wish to bring music and disability into general music courses.

The AMS Study Group and SMT Interest Group on Music and Disability will sponsor a special session on music pedagogy and disability at the 2016 joint conference in Vancouver. We seek proposals on new ways to integrate music and disability as a common perspective within the standard core curriculum in music history and music theory, rather than relegate music and disability to special topics and seminar courses. We seek presentations from colleagues who already utilize this perspective in their routine teaching responsibilities, and we welcome submissions from younger scholars who would like to workshop their ideas for syllabi. We encourage submissions in a variety of formats, including duo presentations, short position papers, longer research papers, workshops, interviews, demonstrations, testimonials, videos, Skype presentations, surveys, and more.

Proposals should clearly describe (1) the argument you will make or the information you will convey, (2) the format you will use, and (3) the estimated duration of your presentation. Please limit proposals to 250 words. Send proposals to no later than 4 April 2016. Submissions (with identifying information removed) will be read by the organizers and chairs of the AMS and SMT music and disability study group and interest group: Samantha Bassler and Bruce Quaglia.

On Diagnosis and Invisible Illness

The following link is shared with permission from the author, Katherine Meizel, who is an assistant professor of ethnomusicology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Katherine recently gave a paper at AMS Louisville (2015) on music and deafness, “Two Voices: Singers in the Hearing/ Deaf Borderlands”, and is the author of  Idolized: Music, Media, and Identity in American Idol. In the article linked below, Katherine writes for Scope, the Stanford medical blog, about her experience obtaining diagnoses of invisible illnesses. Although this is not a musical article, it furthers important work in disability activism, and disability awareness, which are important goals of the Music and Disability Study Group and the Society for Music Theory Interest Group.

“Belief brings relief — and sadness — after decades of doubt”

News from the AMS Music and Disability Study Group

Greetings and Happy New Year!

I write to share some news from the AMS Music and Disability Study Group (MSDG), especially to those who weren’t able to attend AMS Louisville and our events there.

Firstly, as of 2016, I (Samantha Bassler) am now the chair of the study group. Jeannette DiBernardo Jones continues as the chair of the ad-hoc committee on accessibility and as our accessibility liaison with the AMS, and Michael Accinno has graciously agreed to serve as the social media officer. He and I will be updating the blog together this year, and next year he will take over the main duties.

Secondly, the MSDG introduced by-laws at our November 2015 meeting at the annual AMS conference. The By-Laws are available online here — DisMusBylaws — and we will also post another link that is easily accessible from the main page. We will leave them up for every member to review, and then conduct a vote at the AMS meeting in 2016 to either adopt or amend the by-laws. We will also provide a way for members who cannot attend to submit their vote online.

Thirdly, the MSDG has a very successful AMS conference this past year, with a well-attended panel on accessibility (many thanks to our panelists: Daniel Barolsky, William Cheng, James Deaville, Andrew Dell’Antonio, and Meghan Schrader), a panel on music and deafness (congratulations to Jeannette DiBernardo Jones, Anabel Maher, Jessica Holmes, and Katherine Meizel), and a lively breakfast business meeting. At the meeting, we discussed the new appointed officers, as well as the work accomplished in 2014-2015, which included the updated accessibility guidelines for the AMS, the publication of the Oxford Handbook on Music and Disability Studies, and new ventures in music and disability pedagogy.

On the topic of pedagogy, the MSDG is working closely with the Society for Music Theory Interest Group on Music and Disability (chair, Bruce Quaglia) to produce a panel on music, disability, and pedagogy for the AMS/SMT 2016. A full announcement and a CFP will be available on this web site and circulated widely in the next few weeks.

Please continue to check the blog regularly, and send myself (s.e.bassler at merton dot oxon dot org) any ideas for our on-going guest blog series on projects in music and disability studies.

Very best wishes, Samantha Bassler

Chair, AMS Study Group on Music and Disability Studies

Agenda and Program for the Music and Disability Study Group events at AMS 2015

Greetings! The annual AMS conference is nearly upon us, and it promises to be a stimulating and exciting event. Please find attached the program for the evening session, “What is Accessible Musicology?” (on Thursday, 12 November, from 8–11pm), and the agenda for the business meeting (on Saturday, 14 November, from 7:30–8:45am).

Safe travels to everyone attending the conference, and we will see you in Louisville!

2015 Program and Business Meeting Agenda

Music and Disability Events at AMS in Louisville,

The Music and Disability Study Group (MDSG) is pleased to announce the following papers and meetings at the American Musicological Society annual meeting in Louisville (12–15 November), which will be of interest to scholars of music and disability.

  1. The MDSG is sponsoring a session, “What Is Accessible Musicology?”, which will be held during the Thursday evening session, from 811pm in the Laffoon room. In this session, musicologists will present their unique perspectives on the intersections between disability, accessibility, and musicology.
    • James Deaville (Carleton University): “A Matter of Class? Musicology and Us”
    • William Cheng (Dartmouth College): “Sounding Good: Musicology, Rhetoric, and Repair”
    • Meghan Schrader (University of New Hampshire): “Tasting the Forbidden Fruit: Verbal Learners and the Construction of New Music Pedagogy at the Crossroads of Music History and Theory”
    • Daniel Barolsky (Beloit College): “Excluding Audiences: The Pedagogy of Inclusive Listening”
    • Andrew Dell’Antonio (University of Texas at Austin): “Public Musicology as Accessible Musicology: Reflections on The Avid Listener’s First Year”
  2. The MDSG business meeting will be held on the Saturday morning of the conference, from 7:30-8:45am (McCreary Room). An agenda will be posted prior to the start of the conference. Please e-mail Samantha (s.e.bassler at merton dot oxon dot org) if you have an item of business for the meeting.
  3. There are a number of other sessions and panels featured on the AMS program, which pertain to music and disability studies.
  • During the Thursday afternoon session (Breathitt Room, 2-5pm), there will be a panel, “Listening beyond Hearing: Music and Deafness,” chaired by Andrew Dell’Antonio (University of Texas at Austin), and featuring the following papers:
    • Anabel Maler (University of Chicago), “Music and the Deaf Experience in Nineteenth-Century America”
    • Jessica Holmes (McGill University), “‘How to Truly Listen’? Resisting an Idealized Sense of the Deaf Body”
    • Katherine Meizel (Bowling Green State University), “Two Voices: Singers in the Hearing/ Deaf Borderlands”
    • Jeannette Jones (Boston University), “‘Hearing Deafly’: Reshaping the Geography of Sound in the Body”
  • On the Friday afternoon of the conference, J. Griffith Rollefson (University College Cork, National University of Ireland) will present a paper entitled, “‘Got a Freaky, Freaky, Freaky, Freaky Flow’: Theorizing ‘Illness’ in Hip Hop” (2-3:30pm, Coombs Chandler Room).
  • During the evening session on the Saturday of the conference (Breathitt Room, 7:30-9:30pm), the Ludomusicology Study Group Inaugural Meeting will include a paper by Dana Plank-Blasko (Ohio State University), entitled “Paging Dr. Mario: Physical Impairment, Illness, and Disability in the Video Game Soundscape”.

Please e-mail Samantha (s.e.bassler at merton dot oxon dot org) to publicize any other details about music and disability events at AMS.