Howe—Music and Disability

Music and Disability Studies
Blake Howe

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Abstract: Disability studies is an interdisciplinary academic field that coalesces around a central argument: in addition to (or despite) its biological basis, disability is also socially and culturally mediated. During the past fifteen years, music scholars have engaged with this field, producing hundreds of publications. The range of topics has been diverse, demonstrating the pervasiveness of disability in musical practices throughout history and around the world. Many studies by musicologists and ethnomusicologists have focused on the musical experiences of disabled persons; the usual goal is to discern the role that disability has played in their careers, their reception histories, or their music-making. Other studies by musicologists and theorists have examined representations of disability in musical works: how disabled bodies are portrayed in dramatic music, or how rhythms, harmonies, textures, and forms might metaphorically disable the body of a composition. Finally, musicologists, theorists, and ethnomusicologists have used the insights of disability studies to scrutinize their own fields and professions, for example, by documenting social impediments that disabled students and scholars face. In each area, music scholars have allied themselves with some of the core tenets of disability studies, demonstrating not just that disability is socially and culturally mediated, but also this mediation can occur through music.

How to cite this article: Howe, Blake. 2020. “Music and Disability.” Music Research Annual 1: 1–29.

About the author: Blake Howe is Paula G. Manship Associate Professor of Music at Louisiana State University. His research interests include music and disability studies, nineteenth-century German song, and film music. He has published on these and other topics in the Journal of the American Musicological Society, Music Theory Spectrum, the Journal of Musicology, the Musical Quarterly, and the Journal of Music History Pedagogy. He is co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Music and Disability Studies, co-author of “Disability and Music” in Oxford Bibliographies Online, and co-convener of the colloquy “On the Disability Aesthetics of Music,” which appeared in the Journal of the American Musicological Society. From 2012 to 2015, he served as co-chair of the Music and Disability Study Group of the American Musicological Society.

ISSN 2563-7290