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.


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: 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.

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 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).

Music and Disability events at the AMS/SMT joint conference in Milwaukee

There are a number of items of interest to music and disability researchers at the AMS/SMT joint conference in Milwaukee this year.

Firstly, our DISMUS special session “Recasting Music: Body, Mind, Ability” will take place on Saturday, November 8, 8-11 p.m. There will be short papers from Michael Bakan, Stephanie Jensen-Moulton, Jessica Holmes, Blake Howe, Jennifer Iverson, and Joseph N. Straus, followed by interactive discussion with three respondents: noted senior Disability Studies scholar Tobin Siebers (University of Michigan), senior musicologist Andrew Dell’Antonio (University of Texas at Austin) and his collaborator in ongoing neurodiversity research, Elizabeth J. Grace (National Louis University). Please consider donating as you are able to our respondents honoraria, using the first ‘sticky’ post on this blog. We are grateful for any donation amount. Questions/concerns can be directed to Jennifer Iverson (

Secondly, there will be three papers on AMS panels that are of interest to our group members (abstracts can be found on the AMS page):

David VanderHamm, “Sounding the Limits: Technology, Virtuosity, and Disability”

“Through an analysis of performances by Tony Melendez and John Gomm, and in conversation with recent scholarship in disability and performance studies, I argue that virtuosity and disability function through a codependent logic of limits regarding technologies and bodies. […] Performing virtuosity simultaneously with disability points to the precariousness of performance and the centrality of the body, while providing ways of valuing musical labor that include but ultimately overflow the category of the aesthetic. The reception of music by Melendez and Gomm emphasizes the ways that audiences value music not just as a product, but as the action of skilled bodies. Disability and virtuosity are perhaps most joined in the ways they require envisioning new and often individual forms of embodied, creative practice.

William Cheng, “Staging Overcoming: Disability, Meritocracy, and the Envoicing of American Dreams”

“My paper explores how American reality singing competitions manufacture, stage, and exploit spectacles of disability and overcoming via appeals to musical meritocracy. As a pervasive—but rarely interrogated—organizational force in contemporary capitalist societies, meritocracy teases utopian notions of nondiscrimination, claiming evaluative processes that aspire to fairness: “blind” orchestra auditions, “double-blind” peer-reviews of articles and abstracts, “need-blind” college admissions—it is neither incidental nor coincidental that metaphors of (sight) impairment abound in descriptions of antiprejudicial procedures. […] By lending an ear to reality competitions’ affective currencies, my project broadly illuminates the connections and collisions between disability’s gritty realities and meritocracy’s glossy ideals in musical media of late modernity.”

Marianne Kielian-Gilbert, “‘Compassion with the Abyss’: Sensory Estrangement in Britten’s Late Works”

“Britten’s melodic-harmonic-rhythmic inversions call attention to the difference, sensory strangeness and perceptual distortion of exact intervallic inversion in a tonal and temporal context and alternately motivate listeners to re-turn tonally oriented patterning as inversionally configured. Working from the idea that the labors of mu- sic analysis and experience implicate relational (social-cultural) dimensions, I consid- er ways that Britten’s “inversional” strategies differ from such practices as harmonic dualism (Tymoczko 2011), inversional balance (Lewin 1968) and disability hearing (Straus 2011), gender (a)symmetry (Scherzinger 1997), prolongational effect (Forrest 2010), and/or the aesthetics of mirror inversion (Cone 1967).”

Finally, there will be a happy hour on Saturday, 5-6pm. Small groups will most-likely depart from the happy hour to have dinner informally. The happy hour conflicts with the AMS business meeting from 5:30-7pm. There will be no breakfast meeting, despite the fact that it is in the program for Friday AM. We welcome feedback and ideas during the Saturday evening happy hour 5-6 pm, dinner hour, and margins of the evening panel 8-11 pm.

SMT Panel Accepted!

I am happy to report that the DISMUS interest group has a special session on the upcoming SMT conference (Charlotte, Nov. 2013). The plan, which includes short papers and time for audience participation and discussion, and abstract are below.  Hope you will be able to attend!
Universal Design in the Music Theory and Aural Skills Classrooms (Jennifer Iverson, University of Iowa, moderator)
  1. “Best Practices for Navigating the Campus Disability Services Office” (Jon Kochavi, Swarthmore College)
  2. “Aural Skills and the Dyslexic Music Major” (Laurel Parsons, North Vancouver, BC)
  3. “An Introduction to Universal Design for Learning and its Application to the Music Theory Classroom and Curriculum” (Bruce Quaglia, University of Utah)
  4. “Hands-on Music Theory: A Kinesthetic Approach to Teaching Music Theory Fundamentals” (Kati Meyer, University of Iowa)
  5. “Schenkerian Analysis in Multiple Modalities” (Robert Gross, Rice University)
  6. Small-group discussion and workshopping (to be facilitated by moderator and panelists; 30-45 min.)
Universal design, according to the Center for an Accessible Society, suggests that architectural spaces should be designed so as to be “usable by all people to the greatest extent possible.” This special session applies universal design principles to music theory and aural skills instruction in five short papers (each ten to twenty minutes long), with a forty-five minute small group discussion and syllabus workshop at the end of the session.

The session traces a trajectory from the usual practice of offering accommodations to “disabled” students, toward a more radical re-envisioning of pedagogy to serve multiple abilities. We begin with a survey report summarizing a qualitative study of best practices for navigating the campus disability services offices. The second paper, on teaching aural skills to music-dyslexic students, only reinforces how critical it is for instructors to be well informed about different abilities and accommodations. The session then asks, “How can we minimize our partitions between “abled” and “disabled”? We hear a paper contextualizing the concepts of universal design for learning (UDL) within the music theory curriculum, and then hear two case studies—on kinesthetic fundamentals teaching and on Braille for Schenkerian analysis—that challenge and extend traditional pedagogy. The discussion and workshop period will allow session participants to apply and integrate these new ideas into their own syllabi and pedagogy. This panel provides both research and pedagogical provocation for instructors who are increasingly mindful of varied and differing abilities.