Conference Report: Music and Disability at the Society for American Music 2015

The next feature in our series of guest blog posts is by Michael Accinno, a doctoral candidate in musicology at the University of California at Davis. His previous studies include a bachelor’s degree in voice from Rice University, and a master’s in musicology from the University of Iowa. Accinno’s research focuses on music and politics, the reconstruction era, and disability studies, and has given papers on such topics at the Society for American Music, the CUNY Graduate Center Symposium on Music and Disability, and the UC Davis Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Symposium.

Is disability studies still an “emerging” area of research within musicology? At what point do we get to take the training wheels off and acknowledge that critical discussions of disability—like gender, sexuality, and race—are simply part of what we do as scholars? I often find myself renewing these questions whenever I attend academic conferences, and this month’s annual meeting of the Society for American Music (SAM) was no exception.

Encompassing the study of the music of the Americas, SAM has always included a dizzying array of places, styles, and peoples. Reflecting this eclecticism, papers at this year’s conference attended to disability in in varying guises, with stops along the way in film music (Neil Lerner’s discussion of “overcoming” in the 1945 film “Pride of the Marines”); jazz (Eduardo López-Dabdoub on the blind saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk and the performance of disability); musical theater; hip-hop (Elyse Marrero’s engaging presentation on ASL interpreters and Hip Hop); and New England psalmody (my own paper on music at the Perkins School for the Blind).

A special seminar on disability and musical theater opened the door to a rich new potential area for further research. Organized by James Leve (Northern Arizona University), the seminar format included several long-established scholars who—in an important step forward for our subfield—contributed position papers about disability for the first time. Paul Laird (University of Kansas) provided a compelling critique of Nessarose and Elphaba, the two disabled female characters in Stephen Schwartz’s musical Wicked; Raymond Knapp (UCLA) reflected on a symposium he organized on Deaf West [link: http://www.deafwest.org/%5D Theatre’s production of Big River; Lauren Acton (York University) discussed representations of mental illness at the 2014 Stratford Festival in Canada; Steve Swayne (Dartmouth) explored Lucy Barker’s poisoning in Sweeney Todd; Last but not least, James Leve discussed Charlie and Algernon, a 1970s-era musical in which the title character Charlie (a man with down syndrome) is juxtaposed troublingly with Algernon (a laboratory mouse).

In an extended conversation period that followed the papers, several discussants encouraged the presenters to consider critiques raised within disability studies: what role (or lack thereof) do disability activists and actors play in theatrical representations of disability? To what extent do musical theater narratives, like literary narratives, function as a form of prosthesis? Finally, how can scholars, activists, and audiences use musical theater to imagine an inclusive future with disabled people rather than an ableist future without them?

The conversation sparked by these questions is still “emerging” for music theater scholars (let’s not shed the label just yet!). Nevertheless, musicals—Broadway, fringe, regional, and otherwise—have the promise to enliven and inform critiques of staged representations of disability for years to come.

What good news do you bring?

Samantha Bassler:

This post was originally posted on Phil Ford’s blog, Dial “M” for Musicology: Music, Musicology, and Related Matters. This is re-posted with permission from Phil, an associate professor of musicology at the Indiana University. Phil is the author of Dig: Sound and Music in Hip Culture (Oxford University Press, 2013), and articles the Journal of Musicology, Jazz Perspectives, Musical Quarterly, among other scholarly journals.

Originally posted on Dial M for Musicology:

Warning: this post is very long, rather serious, and takes a break from my ongoing series on Sun Ra’s Space is the Place. I will get back to that forthwith. But today, though, I want to write about something else, namely mental illness.

I.

A talk by Peter Railton has been making the philosophy social-media rounds lately. The talk (“Innocent Abroad: Rupture, Liberation, and Solidarity”) deals with a familiar theme, the relationship of social engagement and the life of the mind, and develops it through a series of autobiographical vignettes. Some of these take place against the background of large public events — Sputnik, the civil rights movement, the Columbia student strike — and some of them belong to the more private domain of student advising, collegial conversation, and committee service. The common thread that runs through them all is the sense that, when we meet a moment of moral challenge, we cannot evade the responsibility to…

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Electronic Textbooks and Accessibility

Joseph Straus asked me to post the following to the blog, in order to ensure the widest possible readership. You can respond with comments to the blog post, which Joe can access, or you can e-mail him (his e-mail is easily found via Google searches).

~~~~

Dear colleagues,

I need your advice.

Poundie Burstein and I are writing a new harmony text for Norton, which is eager to make the book fully accessible. For the ebook version of the text, Norton is looking into using alt text for the musical examples (i.e. text that a screen reader can read when a student reaches an example on the page). Apparently this is somewhat controversial and some people find recordings preferable to alt text.

Have you had experience with alt text for musical examples?
Would you be willing to share that experience with me and with Norton?
Or do you know someone who has had experience whom I might contact?

More broadly, can you think of accessibility issues you have faced with previous harmony texts you have used, and ways that Norton might effectively handle those issues?

I would be grateful for your guidance.

Joe Straus

CFP, AMS Study Group on Music and Disability, Special Session at AMS 2015 in Louisville, KY

CFP: What Is Accessible Musicology?
Special Session of the Music and Disability Study Group
AMS Annual Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky

As currently practiced, musicology can be an exclusionary discipline, accessible mostly to those who are able to attend institutions of higher education, travel to conferences, and communicate scholarship through presentations and publications. Our discipline’s body of work inevitably reflects the bodies of those who produce it, necessitating a greater diversity of voices into a monoculture of academic scholarship.

This session seeks to foster a discussion about what accessibility is, how it benefits current members of the musicological community, and how it may lead to greater inclusivity in the future. We welcome papers on innovative approaches to accessibility, including through political activism, inclusive pedagogy, and “public musicology.” In addition, we hope to explore the implications of “accessibility,” “accommodation,” and “universal design” beyond those of disability rights to encompass diverse forms of difference and identity.

We are soliciting proposals on this topic in a wide variety of formats, including (but not limited to) short position papers, longer research papers, workshops, interviews, demonstrations, testimonials, videos, 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 350 words. Send proposals to disability.and.music@gmail.com no later than March 1, 2015. The proposals (with all identifying information removed) will be read by the event’s moderators: Samantha Bassler and Blake Howe (co-chairs of the Study Group) and Jeannette Jones (chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Accessibility).

CFP (journal): Special issue on disability and design, The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy

Issue 8 of The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy

Special Topic: Disability as Insight, Access as the Function of Design

Issue Editors: Sushil K. Oswal, University of Washington

Andrew J. Lucchesi, The Graduate Center, CUNY

JITP welcomes work that explores critical and creative uses of interactive technology in teaching, learning, research, and the workplace. For this issue, we invite submissions from both senior and emerging scholars under the linked themes of disability and access as generative focuses for technological design and pedagogical innovation.

In this issue of JITP, rather than approaching disability as a problem to be solved, we seek proposals for projects that imagine, explore, and underscore the positive gains to be had by embracing disability perspectives on accessible designs. We draw on Elizabeth Sanders and Pieter Jan Stappers’s conception of future-minded generative design research and ask contributors to propose projects that would inform and inspire future designers, teachers, and researchers to shape digital tools, methodologies, and environments which de-center ableistic visions of technology, composing processes, curricular content, and access itself.

We request proposals for critical narratives that underscore the contributions disability makes in stretching the boundaries of design while asserting a central place for accessibility, inclusivity, and bodily difference. We also welcome topics that challenge or reconceptualize the traditional notions of assistive technologies and accessible designs whether or not they necessarily address the topic from the perspective of Disability Studies. Rhetorical analysis of technology, accessibility, and disability can also be a productive area of exploration.

Submit inquiries to oswal@u.washington.edu and alucchesi@gc.cuny.edu.

Suggested topics may include but are not limited to:

  • What does it mean to compose multimodally with accessibility in view as a person with or without disability? What might it look like to design inclusive user interactions in social virtual spaces? What complexity, creativity, or obfuscations are visible in today’s social media compositions at the intersections of gender, race, and disability?
  • What novel disability and accessibility scholarship projects have been made, or are possible by virtual Social Networks? What new knowledge is possible through assistive-technology-related disability and accessibility research for universal users?
  • Besides the functional innovations, what possibilities for play and improvisation are possible through assistive technologies and related research? How do such play and improvisation stabilize existing knowledge and directionally change the generation of new knowledge?
  • Development of assistive technology tools or applications for “mainstream” purposes; rhetorics of assistive technologies; rhetorical histories of assistive technologies morphing into “mainstream” products; rhetorics of, or analyses of, consumer mobile technologies as assistive technologies; visions of assistive technologies for able-bodied users.
  • Analyses of new models of Universal Design; benefits and/or analyses of disabled-centered participatory designs; position papers on innovative, crowd-sourced designs by and for the disabled.
  • Generative research methods for evaluating accessible designs, products, and pedagogies; profiles or analyses of digital tools for disability activism, or community building ; or experiments in fostering accessibility in learning, work, and research environments in college and beyond.

We invite both textual and multimedia submissions employing interdisciplinary and creative approaches in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. Besides scholarly papers, the proposed submissions can consist of audio or visual presentations and interviews, dialogues, or conversations; creative/artistic works; manifestos; or other scholarly materials.

All JITP submissions are subject to an open peer review process. The expected length for finished manuscripts is under 5,000 words. Proposals received that do not fall under the special topic topic but do fall under JITP’s broader themes will still be considered for publication in Issue 8.

Important Dates

Submission deadline for this Fall 2015 Issue is April 15, 2015. When submitting using our Open Journal Systems software, under “Journal Section,” please select the section titled “Issue 8: Special Issue.”  Submission instructions are below.

About the Journal

All work appearing in the Issues section of JITP is reviewed by the issue editors and independently by two scholars in the field, who provide formative feedback to the author(s) during the review process. We intend that the journal itself—both in our process and in our digital product—serve as an opportunity to reveal, reflect on, and revise academic publication and classroom practices. All submissions for this special issue will be considered for our “Behind the Seams” feature, in which we publish dynamic representations of the revision and editorial processes, including reflections from the authorial and editorial participants.

Research-based submissions should include discussions of approach, method, and analysis.  When possible, research data should be made publicly available and accessible via the Web and/or other digital mechanisms, a process that JITP can and will support as necessary.  Successes and interesting failures are equally welcome (although see the Teaching Fails section below for an alternative outlet). Submissions that focus on pedagogy should balance theoretical frameworks with practical considerations of how new technologies play out in both formal and informal educational settings. Discipline-specific submissions should be written for non-specialists.

As a courtesy to our reviewers, we will not consider simultaneous submissions, but we will do our best to reply to you within two to three months of the submission deadline. All work should be original and previously unpublished. Essays or presentations posted on a personal blog may be accepted, provided they are substantially revised; please contact us with any questions at editors@jitpedagogy.org.

Video from Recasting Music: Body, Mind, Ability

Our special session at AMS/SMT Milwaukee 2014 included six short papers, three respondents, and lots of engaging conversation. Video of the introduction and first three talks is posted below, though due to a technical glitch, we unfortunately didn’t capture video for the rest of the session. Text versions of the later papers are linked where available.

Introduction (Jennifer Iverson)

Joseph N. Straus, “Hearing Voices”  
Stephanie Jensen-Moulton, “American Opera and Disability: The Case of Moby-Dick
Tobin Siebers, respondent. Discussion.


Performance (8:45–9:30)
Michael Bakan, “From Pathology to Neurodiversity: Music, Autism, and Ethnography”
Blake Howe“Enforcing and Recasting Disability through Music”
Andrew Dell’Antonio and Elizabeth Grace, respondents.


Vocality (9:30–10:30)
Jennifer Iverson“The Disabled Body in Babbitt’s Philomel and Wishart’s Red Bird
Jessica Holmes, “Sensing and Expressing Voice in Christine Sun Kim’s Face Opera II
Tobin Siebers, Andrew Dell’Antonio, and Elizabeth Grace, respondents. Discussion

CFP: Panel “Disabling Music Pedagogy” at Society for Disability Studies

CFP: Panel “Disabling Music Pedagogy” at Society for Disability Studies
June 10-13 2015, Atlanta, Georgia

For this panel, we are interested in cross-disciplinary interpretations of how music pedagogy exists in relationship to the experience of disability and how that relationship might be transformed. Areas considered might include current pedagogical standards in music education, music therapy, or occupational therapy more broadly. We encourage papers that consider how mainstream standards and conceptions of musicianship impact the scholastic endeavors of disabled students, particularly in regard to pedagogical techniques that evolved in the 19th century. We are also interested in papers that consider how best to approach the subject of disability in a music history seminar, music theory class, or general humanities class. Finally, we invite papers that explore the issue of disclosure in the music classroom, and how the choice to disclose or not might impact the pedagogical approaches available for teaching and learning music. Possible topics might include but are not limited to:

  • How mainstream pedagogical approaches reflect broader definitions of what it means to be a musician or to create beautiful music
  • How pedagogical approaches serve in maintaining or subverting able-bodied privilege
  • The impact of aesthetics on music education and assessment
  • How conceptions undergirding various pedagogical approaches might be observed in or related to music literature, such as opera, chamber music, or other genres.
  • How the use of music in therapeutic settings relates to the medical model of disability

More broadly, we are interested in exploring how pedagogy can be employed in ways that honor the scholastic autonomy of scholars with disabilities by expanding ways in which foundational musicianship is taught, learned, and conceived. Abstracts of approximately 300 words should be submitted no later than December 3, 2014. Please include your name, institutional affiliation, contact information, and abstract in an attached pdf file. Abstracts should be sent to the organizing committee via Meghan Schrader: meghanschrader (at) hotmail.com .