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.


Agenda and Program for the Music and Disability Study Group events at AMS 2015

Greetings! The annual AMS conference is nearly upon us, and it promises to be a stimulating and exciting event. Please find attached the program for the evening session, “What is Accessible Musicology?” (on Thursday, 12 November, from 8–11pm), and the agenda for the business meeting (on Saturday, 14 November, from 7:30–8:45am).

Safe travels to everyone attending the conference, and we will see you in Louisville!

2015 Program and Business Meeting Agenda

DISMUS at SMT St. Louis

The DISMUS interest group will meet on Saturday Noon – 2 p.m. at the Society for Music Theory 2015 annual meeting in St. Louis. In the first hour, we will have our business meeting, including briefings on current projects and time to develop new collaborations and proposals. In the second hour, we will discuss Chapter 2 “Dismodernism Reconsidered” from Lennard Davis‘s The End of Normal.

End of NormalWe issue an open call for respondents, who will prepare a 5-minute response that engages Davis’s dismodernism essay from their own individual perspective. Come one, come all! We invite you to volunteer to give a short response, or simply to read this provocative essay and contribute to the discussion on Saturday October 31. Register your participation or direct questions to Jennifer Iverson (jennifer-iverson -at- and Bruce Quaglia (bruce.quaglia -at-

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.

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.

Disability News for AMS/SMT 2014: Accessibility Pledge

The American Musicological Society’s announcements site for the AMS/SMT 2014 joint meeting in Milwaukee features an accessibility pledge, and a list of accessibility features for the 2014 conference. The pledge, which can be read on the conference web site and the conference accessibility page, is copied below:

Recognizing the contributions that scholars with disabilities have made and continue to make to the field of musicology, and in keeping with its commitment to the principles of inclusiveness and equal access, every effort will be made to meet the unique requirements of all attendees. Click here for more information and a list of accessibility features at the conference facilities.

The list of accessibility features also includes links to the AMS and SMT Guidelines on Accessibility and Accommodations for Members with Disabilities. The features listed are specific to the Milwaukee conference venues.

Many thanks to the ad-hoc committee on accessibility, which works towards improving accessibility for all conference delegates of AMS and SMT meetings.

Guest Post by Meghan Schrader, announcing the newly-formed Society for Disability Studies Interest Group on Disability and Music

Meghan Schrader received her M.A. in Music at the University of New Hampshire, and is the author of an article in the forthcoming collection Anxiety Muted: American Film Music in a Suburban Age, which will be published by Oxford University Press.

I am pleased to announce that the first meeting of the Society for Disability Studies music interest group was held recently at the national Conference of Disability Studies. The group was conceived around the original concept of musicology, described by Joseph Kerman in Contemplating Music, as having ranged “from the history of Western music to the taxonomy of primitive music, as it was then called, from acoustics to aesthetics, and from harmony to counterpoint to piano pedagogy.”

I find this definition is useful for our purposes: scholars in disability studies approach music in a variety of ways. We may be professional musicologists, or we may teach or study fields outside of music, such as English or Philosophy. In contrast to the breadth of methodological approaches to the study of music and disability, music is a distinct discipline with particular genres, history, and cultural practices; which differ from other forms of human expression. Hence, my hope is to provide a forum for SDS attendees to discuss music within a broad musicological framework. I also hope that doing so might foster collaboration with scholars who are affiliated with the AMS and SMT Disability Study Groups, in hopes that our divergent experiences might enrich each other’s scholarship.

By drawing on the increasing body of work related to music and disability, this group will consider the following questions: How can our work best reflect the interdisciplinary nature of disability studies? How does and should such musicology intersect with related fields, such a film studies, sound studies, and identity studies? What is music’s potential to reify or subvert cultural conceptions of disabled people, performers, and composers? What can disability studies contribute to music pedagogy? How might these contributions add to or change 19th century standards of musicianship that currently determine the practice of music? Can the social critique which often accompanies the analysis of narrative music also be applied to interpretations of absolute music? How can the analysis of music be integrated with ethical issues encountered in Disability Studies? What has disability studies to teach musicology, and what does musicology have to contribute to disability studies? How do nuances within disability identity impact our respective experiences as scholars, and particularly within the musicology/disability studies communities?

Our first meeting attracted scholars from a variety of different backgrounds and research interests, including:

  • Presidential campaign music, opera on YouTube, and Freakery
  • Music performance and, deafness in music with a focus on Evelyn Glennie and Christine Sun Kim
  • Film music, particularly horror film soundtracks and film music of the 1950s
  • Elitisim in music education
  • Film music and studies of “The Beast with Five Fingers,” “Pride of Manres,” and Al Schidt and blindness
  • Studies of Porgy and Bess and contemporary music
  • Songwriting/performance with a focus on clinical psychology and metal music

We began the process of organizing one or more interdisciplinary panels for next year, in which we hope to bring these divergent interests together. True to the familial spirit of SDS, we also discussed the possibility of an “open mic night,” in which music scholars could not only meet for discussion, but also perform for each other.

We noted that SDS has had several music panels over the years, but that scholars who frequently attend SDS might be less likely to attend AMS, SAM or SMT meetings. Similarly, frequent participants in the latter conferences rarely attend SDS. Hence, another goal is to establish more frequent interactions and communication between scholars affiliated with these respective organizations. We would like to encourage these scholars to enrich both conferences with their presence and contributions.

Those wishing to participate in a panel should submit their abstracts to Meghan Schrader (meghanschrader at, Jessica Holmes (jessica.holmes at, and Dana Gorzelany-Mostak (dana.gorzelany-mostak at by December 3, 2014. The Society for Disability Studies Music Interest Group also has a Facebook presence.