Dear AMS Colleagues,
I am writing to invite you to join us at the annual meeting in Boston for the Music & Disability Study Group’s Evening Panel Session, entitled “Musicology and Universal Design: Claiming the Consonant, the Dissonant, and the Resonant,” on Thursday October 31 from 8:00-10:00 p.m. in Grand Ballroom A. I am thrilled to report that the panel not only features live musical performance, but that live American Sign Language interpretation will be provided for the duration of the panel and question & answer period, courtesy of Harvard University!
The panel will begin with an interactive performance by the Cambridge Common Voices, under the creative leadership of conductor Andrew Clarke. The ensemble is a community chorus and creative partnership between Harvard College and the Threshold Program at Lesley University, a transition program for young adults with diverse learning challenges. Rooting its work in Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Cambridge Common Voices reimagines concepts of choral music through the lens of disability, creating new pathways that challenge established norms of musical value, expertise, taste, and social hierarchies by affirming the creative agency of each singer, and democratizing the creative process.
The second half of the panel will feature three paper presentations. Abby Anderton (CUNY, Baruch College) will discuss how the principles of UD can be used in tandem with those of Open Educational Resources (OER) to create a more inclusive, equitable music history curriculum. Floris Schuiling (Utrecht University) and Pedro Garcia López de la Osa (UC Riverside) separately investigate the design and use of music notation for visually impaired musicians in the Netherlands and Spain, respectively. Both presentations reveal the extent to which standardization of blind musical notation has been fueled by nationalism at the expense of accessibility.
Note that the panel will be livestreamed on YouTube (link TBA). Official live tweets can also be followed using our Study Group Twitter handle: @amssmtdismus. For your convenience, the complete panel abstract is copied below. We look forward to seeing many of you at what promises to be a dynamic and enriching event!
On behalf of the Music & Disability Study Group, I wish to thank you for your ongoing support.
All my best,
Study Group Chair
Evening Panel Abstract
The concept of “Universal Design” (UD), coined by architect Ron Mace in 1996, figures prominently in current public discourse on disability as designers, architects, urban planners, and engineers aspire to create more inclusive spaces and objects that better accommodate the needs of all bodies. UD avoids stigmatizing and segregating bodies by striving for equity and flexibility of use, integrating accessibility into all stages of the design process, obviating the need for retrofits. Familiar examples include curb cuts, tactile paving, wheelchair ramps, and beeping crosswalk lights which render the built environment more accessible to those with physical and sensory disabilities, while Braille and closed-captioning facilitate greater access to visual and aural media. In higher education, the goals of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) “stand in direct contrast to the often nostalgic (and ultimately hierarchical) expression of normativity we see in the repeated calls to re-embrace physical books, pens, and paper,” writes disability scholar and advocate Rick Godden.
UD has its drawbacks, however. As designer-scholar Graham Pullin argues, the types of multimodal interfaces, spaces, and multifunctional platforms sometimes designed to “accommodate as broad a range of uses as possible” risk further excluding by virtue of their complexity. “Different people ultimately have different needs and desires irrespective of their abilities,” writes Pullin (2015). Others lament that UD often masquerades as a totalizing embrace of human diversity, overshadowing the ways accessibility is also race- and class-bound, and constructed along gendered lines as much as it is contingent upon ability. Godden contends, furthermore, that ultimately, “eccentric and extraordinary bodies have the potential to puncture the illusion of the universal that UD champions, disorienting and, more importantly, reorienting how we conceive of access and equality” (2016).
Like the built-environment, Western music encodes what Blake Howe has described as a “corporeal finitude” through everything from scores to instrument design in ways that “enable some bodies, while disabling others.” Our session probes the consonances, dissonances, and resonances of UD as it is mobilized aurally, visually, and through the multiple ways we feel and make sense of music.
Andrew Clark (Harvard) will lead an interactive performance and discussion by the Cambridge Common Voices, a newly launched neurodiverse vocal ensemble established through a partnership between the students of Harvard University’s “Music and Disability” course, and students from the Threshold College Inclusion Program for diverse learners at Lesley University. Rooting its work in UDL, Cambridge Common Voices reimagines concepts of choral music through the lens of disability, creating new pathways that challenge established norms of musical value, expertise, taste, and social hierarchies by affirming the creative agency of each singer, and democratizing the creative process.
Abby Anderton (CUNY, Baruch College) will discuss how the principles of UD can be used in tandem with those of Open Educational Resources (OER) to create a more inclusive, equitable music history curriculum. OER courses rely solely on materials provided at no cost to the student, thereby removing economic barriers to student learning, like expensive textbooks or costly online platforms. Floris Schuiling (Utrecht University) and Pedro Garcia López de la Osa (UC Riverside) separately investigate the design and use of music notation for visually impaired musicians in the Netherlands and Spain, respectively. Schuiling investigates the recent decline in Braille music literacy in the Netherlands as it corresponds to changes in educational policy, a decrease in library resources, and the rise of audio devices. Since the 1990s, Dutch libraries for the blind have been producing “spoken scores,” which have found some degree of popularity, especially amongst late-blind musicians, but have encountered other obstacles toward more widespread adaptation. Similarly, López de la Osa compares Gabriel Abreu’s 19th Century musicographic system for the blind as an alternative to Braille notation. In an effort to bring Spain into conformity with other countries, the Spanish National Organization of the Blind initiated a campaign to revert to Braille notation during the 1950s; yet Spanish blind musicians regard Abreu’s system as more accurate, precise, and convenient, both then and now. Both presentations reveal the extent to which standardization of blind musical notation has been fueled by nationalism at the expense of accessibility.
The AMS Music and Disability Study Group is currently accepting nominations for the following officer positions:
Chair: Manages the Study Group; submits annual reports to the AMS Board and semiannual reports to the AMS newsletter; presides over the annual business meeting; organizes the Study Group’s evening session at AMS annual meetings.
Secretary: Records the minutes of the annual business meeting and assists the Chair as needed.
Webmaster: Maintains the Study Group’s webpage, social media accounts, and listserv. Experience with WordPress is desirable.
Blog Editor: Solicits and edits post for the Study Group’s blog. The Blog Editor may also serve as the Webmaster.
Officers serve three-year, overlapping terms. In the first year, the incoming officer serves jointly with the outgoing officer; in the second year, the officer serves alone; and in the third year, the outgoing officer serves jointly with the incoming officer.
Please submit nominations and self-nominations to email@example.com no later than Friday, March 8.
P.S. If you are a graduate student working in the area of music and disability studies, we’d like to hear about you! Please send a brief description of your research and/or activist work to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are looking forward to connecting with many of you at our joint 2018 AMS/SMT meeting in San Antonio, Texas in a few short days! Below you will find information about our panel session on Thursday, November 1 (8:00-10:00 pm – Texas F), and our joint business meeting on Saturday, November 3 (12:30-2:00 – Travis C/D). Note that our Thursday evening panel session will be streamed live via our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/musicanddisability/.
We would also encourage those interested to attend the Friday morning special session on “Gestural Politics,” which features a presentation by Mel Chen (UC Berkeley) on agitation at the intersection of music, affect, animal studies, disability, and environmentalism (10:45-12:15 – Texas F).
Safe travels and until soon,
Chair, AMS Music & Disability Study Group
Chair, SMT Music & Disability Special Interest Group
Panel at AMS/SMT 2018
Music, Disability, and the Environment:
Bridging Scholarship with Activism
AMS/SMT in San Antonio
Thursday November, 1 – 8:00–10:00 p.m. (Texas F)
SMT Interest Group on Music & Disability
AMS Music & Disability Study Group
AMS Ecocriticism Study Group
Anabel Maler (Indiana University Bloomington)
Chair of the SMT Interest Group on Music and Disability
Jessica Holmes (UCLA)
Chair of the AMS Music and Disability Study Group
Jacob A. Cohen (Macaulay Honors College, CUNY)
Co-Chair of the AMS Ecocriticism Study Group
Chantal Lemire (Western University)
Jessica Schwartz (University of California, Los Angeles)
Ailsa Lipscombe (University of Chicago)
William Robin (University of Maryland)
James Deaville (Carleton University)
Rachel Mundy (Rutgers University-Newark)
Since its inception, disability studies has had strong ties to activism. In her groundbreaking study of the field, Simi Linton situates disability studies as a “juncture that can serve both academic discourse and social change,” a means of holding the academy accountable for the social consequences of our research and teaching (Linton 1998). Similarly, scholars of ecocriticism have insisted that “the urgency of the moment suggests that ecocritics must reflect upon, when it comes to the effectuality of their product, the character and quality of their ecological engagement” (Major and McMurry 2012). Disability studies and ecocriticism also share a critical attention to the built environment, whether as a structure that disables and enables human bodies, or as one that interacts with and integrates into existing ecosystems. Over the last decade, music scholarship on both disability and environmentalism has flourished, contributing to a greater understanding of embodiment, subjectivity, intersectionality, sustainability, and technological mediation in music: disability studies’ and ecocriticism’s common emphasis on activism, inclusive language, and accessibility grounds music scholarship in the social, wedding theory to praxis. Yet rarely have these sub-fields been put into dialogue.
By bringing disability studies, ecocriticism, and music research into new dialogue, this session aims to define our relationship to activism as music scholars involved in personal and/or professional engagement with disability and/or the environment. What are our moral obligations as representatives of “disability and music studies” or “ecomusicology,” and what are the ethical implications of writing about these topics? What tactics can we adopt from on-the-ground grassroots activism? How might we assume the role of public performers as we engage new audiences and new venues beyond academia? How can ecocriticism and disability studies generate new thinking around the human and environmental impact of music’s built-in infrastructures?
In the spirit of public scholarship, we will interrogate how activism can transform the intellectual, methodological, pedagogical, and institutional scope of our disciplines as a matter of un-disciplining. The session will begin with ten-minute lightning talks from our panelists. The session’s panelists represent a diverse range of music specializations and ways of engaging in activism both inside and outside the academy that will enrich existing discourse in musicology and music theory.
Ailsa Lipscombe will discuss how, within medical environments, attentive listening to conversations between the interlocking forces of human, machine, and architecture reveals ways of being and knowing; Jessica Schwartz will present on the role of activism and creative dissent in her research and pedagogy, including a recent course she designed titled “anarcho-musicology: music & anarchism”; William Robin will speak on how Twitter can function as an effective platform for musicologists to amplify activist work; Chantal Lemire will explore the relationship between music pedagogy and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) with reference to her own experience and others who live with ADHD; James Deaville will discuss his ongoing activism over disability rights on campus; and Rachel Mundy will discuss music’s place in the posthuman and material turn, an intervention in today’s discourse of ethics she calls “the animanities.”
Saturday, November 3, 12:30-2:00 p.m. (Travis C/D)
SMT Interest Group on Music & Disability
AMS Music & Disability Study Group
1. Introductions (Anabel Maler & Jessica Holmes) (12:30-12:35)
2. Ongoing Projects of the Study Groups (12:35–1:00)
- Panel “Music, Disability, and the Environment: Bridging Scholarship with Activism” (Jessica & Anabel)
- Guest Blog update
- Online bibliography update
- Accessibility committee
- Recent & forthcoming publications
- New AMS Leadership
3. New Business (1:00-1:20)
- Elect a new webmaster
- Amend AMS DISMUS bylaws (Draft Amendments)
4. Goals for 2019 (1:20-1:30)
Meeting officially adjourns at 1:30
Dear MDSG members and followers,
I hope this message finds you well and enjoying the summer. I want to take the opportunity to introduce myself as the incoming Chair of the AMS Music and Disability Study Group (MDSG) by way of highlighting upcoming Study Group initiatives ahead of our November 2018 society meeting in San Antonio, Texas. As a scholar of music and disability, I have long benefited from the generous mentorship of the pioneering scholars involved with our Study Group. I am thus honoured to give back through my leadership, and excited to see what the future holds for our group!
First, I want to say a special thank you to my predecessor and outgoing Co-Chair, Samantha Bassler, whose inimitable leadership of our Study Group over many years helped raise the profile of the MDSG within the discipline. I am forever indebted to her for having groomed me for the Chairship, and for her creativity, diligence, shrewd insights, camaraderie, and compassion. We are all grateful to you, Samantha, for your invaluable service, and I am determined to carry out your legacy as I take over the Study Group leadership. We wish you all the best in your future endeavours, and are excited for your continued involvement with our community.
During my tenure as Chair, I am especially keen to forge collaborative ties with other AMS Study Groups. My primary motivation stems from a desire to strengthen the interdisciplinary strands of our collective and individual research expertise in music and disability; fuel the intellectual curiosities of our Study Group’s existing membership; and generate new political and scholarly interest in disability among society members beyond the MDSG core. By way of example, last year’s AMS meeting in Rochester, NY featured a record number of concurrent panel sessions addressing intersectionality vis-à-vis myriad subaltern perspectives including race, gender, sexuality, religion, ecocriticism, and disability. I was encouraged by this timely common attention to intersectionality and diversity. However, I was also concerned that such scheduling conflicts, while often unavoidable, sometimes cause our Study Groups and scholarship to become siloed, despite our shared values and mutual interests. Creating opportunities to explore these points of convergence is all the more vital given what many scholars have observed is disability’s symbolic status relative to other positions of marginality and categories of identity: Tobin Siebers contends (drawing on the work of David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder) that “disability is the master trope of human disqualification, not because disability theory is superior to race, class, or sex/gender theory, but because all oppressive systems function by reducing human variation to deviancy and inferiority defined on the mental and physical plane” (Siebers 2010; Mitchell & Snyder 2000). Disability thus needs to figure equally in discussions on diversity within our society. I am confident that establishing relationships with the other Study Groups will help centralize our scholarship within the discipline, while providing new opportunities for us to grow in our collective understanding of disability and music.
As part of our efforts to foster these connections, I am excited to report that our meeting in San Antonio will feature a special evening panel session on “Music, Disability, and the Environment: Bridging Scholarship with Activism,” co-hosted by the AMS and SMT Music and Disability Study Groups, and the AMS Ecocriticism Study Group. Since its inception, disability studies has had strong ties to activism. In her groundbreaking study of the field, Simi Linton describes disability studies as a “juncture that can serve both academic discourse and social change,” a means of holding the academy accountable for the social consequences of our research and teaching (Linton 1998). Similarly, scholars of ecocriticism have long recognized the need to “reflect upon, when it comes to the effectuality of their product, the character and quality of their ecological engagement” (Major and McMurry 2012). Disability studies and ecocriticism also share a critical attention to the built environment, whether as a structure that disables and enables human bodies, or as one that interacts with and integrates into existing ecosystems. By bringing disability studies, ecocriticism, and music research into new dialogue, the session aims to explore our relationship to activism as music scholars involved in personal and professional engagements with disability and/or the environment, and to generate new thinking around the human and environmental impact of music’s built-in infrastructures. In the coming weeks, I will write a separate post announcing the panel, along with our list of speakers and their presentation topics.
In recent years, our Study Group WordPress site has featured a series of guest blog posts written by members of our community. The blog has been a valuable means through which to learn about the breadth of scholarly and creative work being conducted on music and disability, and has facilitated numerous networking and mentorship opportunities for junior and senior scholars alike. I am pleased to report that we will resume our blog series in the coming weeks, and have several engaging pieces planned for the summer months. The enlisted writers and topics of the upcoming posts reflect a desire on a part of the MDSG leadership to broaden our geographical horizons by liaising with and learning from musicians and scholars undertaking disability-related work beyond Canada, the US, and the UK. I look forward to sharing their exciting work with you in the coming weeks!
In the meantime, please feel free to write me with your ideas, feedback, and/or questions. We are eager to learn about your work, and to know how we can better support you.
With my warmest wishes,
American Musicological Society Music and Disability Study Group (MDSG)
Jessica Holmes is a Postdoctoral Fellow of Musicology at the University of California,LosAngeles (UCLA) in the Herb Alpert School of Music. She specializes in music, disability, and embodiment, with notable expertise in deafness and the senses. Her published work on music and disability appears in the Journal of the American Musicological Society, Ethnomusicology Review, and Sound Studies. Her book project, Music at the Margins of Sense – under contract with the University of Michigan press for their newly-established “Music & Social Justice” series – engages the misconceptions and stereotypes associated with deafness through the first-hand musical accounts of d/Deaf musicians and listeners in an effort to pluralize existing conceptions of musical expertise. She is currently co-editing a special issue on “Music, Voice, and Disability” for the Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies (forthcoming 2019). As part of her academic appointment at UCLA, Jessica also teaches methodology courses in musicology, as well as topical courses in music & disability at the graduate and undergraduate levels.
The agenda for today’s business meeting is below. We look forward to seeing everyone at C: Highland E/F from 12:15pm!
Greetings, colleagues! We are looking forward to catching up with many of you at this week’s AMS conference in Rochester. Please find the attached program for the AMS Music and Disability Study Group’s session, to be held on Thursday from 8–11 PM in C: Highland A/K.
In addition, the study group will hold its business meeting on Friday from 12:15–1:15 PM in C: Highland, E/F. Please check our website later this week for business meeting documents.