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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.