A Note From Cambridge Common Voices


Logo for Cambridge Common Voices. A blue C, a red C, and a white V interlocking.

Dr. Andrew Clark just relayed the AMS Study Group a message on behalf of Cambridge Common Voices:

We of the Cambridge Common Voices owe such a debt of gratitude to you and your colleagues for the opportunity perform in your Music & Disability Study Group panel last Thursday at the AMS meeting in Boston. At our rehearsal on Sunday, we took time to reflect on the experience – our singers had a blast. It also drove home an important and painful reminder for me that many of our musicians really have very few occasions to perform for others, much less for such an esteemed group like AMS. 

This experience, made possible by you and your colleagues, ultimately gave our singers an empowered opportunity to share their music and their spirits in meaningful way. It had to be about them. And bearing witness to their authentic joy and sense of abandon made it all worthwhile. I think, maybe, we all often approach these conference spaces with a desire to impress, when what we actually need — at the spiritual level —  is to be inspired.

The work of your study group extends beyond the important endeavor of generating knowledge, critique, and insight — I’m drawn to it because it’s rooted in justice, in raising our consciousness, and in stirring our soul. To make music for all of you, whose work I deeply admire, felt like the best way to give back and to say thank you. I hope we can continue to keep track of each other and that our paths cross soon.

AMS Boston Business Meeting

Attached please find the draft agenda for our business meeting, which will be held on November 1 from 12:30-2:00 in Harbor III. Please note that our business meeting will feature a research presentation by Andrew Dell’Antonio, “UDL as a Resource for Decolonizing the Music History Syllabus.”
The details for our Thursday evening panel are posted on our website: https://musicdisabilitystudies.wordpress.com/2019/10/17/ams-boston-2019/. Additionally, the conference will feature several disability-themed papers, including:

Friday Morning, 10:45-12:15 Disabilities (Harbor II)
Jessica Holmes (University of California, Los Angeles), Chair
Barbara Eichner (Oxford Brookes University), “Infirm Singers and Dyslexic Nuns: Negotiating Disability in Late-Medieval and Early-Modern Monastic Institutions”
James Deaville (Carleton University), “Hearing the American Nightmare: Disability, Race, and Jazz in It’s a Wonderful Life”
Saturday Afternoon, 2:15 Educators and Students, 1680–1860 (Commonwealth C)
Mary Natvig (Bowling Green State University), Chair
Michael Accinno (Duke University), “Music, Literacy, and the Transatlantic Circulation of Braille”

We look forward to seeing many of you in Boston!

AMS Boston 2019

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,

Jessica Holmes
Study Group Chair

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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.

Events at AMS/SMT 2018

Dear Colleagues,

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,

Jessica Holmes,
Chair, AMS Music & Disability Study Group

Anabel Maler
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

Session Chairs:
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.”

Business Meeting

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
  • Pedagogy
  • New AMS Leadership

3. New Business (1:00-1:20)

4. Goals for 2019 (1:20-1:30)

Meeting officially adjourns at 1:30


Program for Music and Disability Events at AMS 2017

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. 

AMS 2017 Panel Program

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.




Music and Disability Events at SMT 2017 in Arlington

The SMT Interest Group on Music and Disability invites all interested SMT members to join us from 12:15 to 1:45 on Friday November 3rd in Studio E of the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel for our annual group meeting. Please feel free to bring your lunch.

We will begin with a short business meeting that will last no more than fifteen minutes. This will then be followed by an informal seminar on The Intersections of Sound Studies and Disability Studies in Music that will last from 12:30 until approximately 1:45. We will be led for this seminar by noted authors Mara Mills (NYU) and Jonathan Sterne (McGill University) who will be joining us from The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin where they are presently co-authoring a book on the history of time stretching and pitch shifting technology. Professors Mills and Sterne will be joining us via Skype. Sumanth Gopinath (University of Minnesota) and Jennifer Iverson (University of Chicago) will be our respondents, on site.

In preparation for this seminar, we ask that you read two short essays from the volume Keywords in Sound Studies: Chapter 4 (Mills) “Deafness,” and Chapter 6 (Sterne) “Hearing.” In addition, please also consider reading the recent essay “Dismediation: Three Proposals and Six Tactics,” co-authored by Mills and Sterne.

You can access these readings here:

Deafness: https://drive.google.com/open…

Hearing: https://drive.google.com/open…

Dismediation: https://drive.google.com/open…

Following the seminar, we will be holding an informal meet-and-greet happy hour from 5–6 p.m.


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 disability.and.music@gmail.com 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.