School for Studies in Art and Culture: Music

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School for Studies in Art and Culture: Music

Music and Disability

MUSI 4200 (.5 credits)

Fall 2016
Dr. James Deaville

E-Mail: through cuLearn

Office A 819 Loeb Building, x 3738

Office Hours: Monday, 11:30 a.m., Tuesday, 12 noon, or by appointment

Class: Loeb Building, Studio C; Monday, 8:35 a.m.-11:25 p.m.

Attendance and punctuality expected

Disability Studies has emerged in recent years as an interdisciplinary field that productively engages in the analysis of culture in its various manifestations. The arts are particularly well suited for such inquiry, given the rich and diverse history of interactions between literature, art, film and music with disability. This course will investigate the varied and complex intersections between music and disability in the past and present. Topics will include disability as metaphor, disability and musical performance, representations of disability in classical and popular music, and music and invisible and intellectual disability.

1. To learn about how the various manifestations of disability intersect with musical composition, performance, and contemplation;

2. To study how disability has played a central role in the shaping of historical and present musical culture;

3. To learn how to analyse music that has some connection with disability;

4. To become familiar with the various methods of music therapy for the disabled;

5. To acquire skills in conducting music research;

6. To become more proficient in thinking critically about music and musical phenomena;

7. To gain experience in scholarly writing and professional speaking.
There is no one textbook for this course—I will be using a variety of online resources for readings, posting some material on the course cuLearn site. The primary sources are the library ebooks Joseph Straus et al, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Music and Disability Studies (2016); Joseph Straus, Extraordinary Measures: Disability in Music (2011); Neil Lerner and Joseph Straus, eds., Sounding Off: Theorizing Disability in Music (2006); and George McKay, Shakin’ All Over: Popular Music and Disability (2015). Other readings appear in journals (online versions through the library) or are accessible links in the reading list, as are the Audioviewing assignments. Readings and Audioviewing assignments must be completed before the class for which they are listed; some of the ebooks have limits on simultaneous users, so don’t wait until the last minute. Each student should have access to a style guide, also for music bibliography.
I encourage communication by e-mail, using cuLearn. I am available in person on Monday at 11:30 a.m., Tuesday at noon, and by special appointment. Please do not try to see me about important matters just before class, since at that time I am trying to get the class session set up. I will also try to set up some kind of discussion forum for the course, either through cuLearn or Facebook. All work (including the term paper and the take-home exam) must be submitted electronically.
Participation (contribution to discussion in-class and/or online)...…….....……….………..........…….25%

Essay proposal (due October 31)……..……………….…...……..……............………………………..5%

Essay (due December 5) .…...……………………….……………………..........……………………..30%

Take-home final exam (deadline subject to mutual agreement)……….……............…………………15%

Class presentation ……………….…………………….………………….…...........…………………25%

As a seminar, this course depends on student contributions to each class session, which largely relies upon preparation. Students will be marked on class participation, which involves weekly participation in classroom discussions and possibly in an electronic forum of some kind. Students must prepare all of the readings and listening for discussion in each class session – those who do not do so receive a “0” mark for the class session. Students will electronically receive marks on their class participation on a periodic basis. This portion of the mark will include weekly sharing of observations from life and participation in disability listserves.


Students must hand in an original research paper or project on the next-to-last day of class (December 5). The topic and mode of presentation is of the student’s own choosing, but it must relate to the course’s overall topic of music and disability. This final research paper/project must address music and its sounds (not just lyrics) to one extent or another – I will not accept purely biographical essays. The research papers can be historical in nature, as long as they somehow talk about specific pieces of music. Students are encouraged to develop their class presentation topic into the research paper.

In order to ensure that the topic, methodology and sources will yield an appropriate research paper, I require a term-paper proposal with bibliography (in all 3 pages or 1000 words), due by the class on October 31 (worth 5% of the course mark). The proposal should include a description of the topic, an argument for its importance, an assessment of work already done on it, a statement about methodology, and a list of sources (primary and secondary). More details about the research paper/project and proposal will be presented in class. Late submissions that do not conform to the guidelines will be penalized, one mark per day. If a research paper, the length should be 3600-4500 words (12-15 pages, including bibliography) – for some other form of research project, the details must be cleared by me. The paper/project must be submitted electronically, through the course cuLearn.

Students are responsible for a 30-minute formal presentation based on one of the readings from on the course outline. The presentation will take place on the date for which it is assigned. Each presentation will summarize the article’s research question or issue and apply it to another reading or real-life situation and to specific music. The presentation should include a discussion of the broader context for the topic, provide a list of sources, and then engage in a more focused evaluation of the article in terms of strengths and weaknesses. Students should conceive of the presentation as incorporating the active participation of the rest of the class, however that may look (discussion questions, class polling etc.). I expect students to use PowerPoint and (if needed) other modes of presentation, such as audio or video material, to illustrate the topic. Students are expected to provide a handout for each presentation. We will discuss in class more specific expectations and guidelines for the presentations, which will begin in the second week with a model presentation of my own. The mark for the presentations will consider not only content, but also timing and manner of presentation: be original and interesting! Students will electronically receive marks and comments after these formal presentations. The non-presenting students at a given presentation should take notes for the presentations of other students: this material will be tested at the end of term. Marks will be deducted for over-time presentation, both for time management and professional reasons.


The course has a take-home final exam. It will be based on the reading/listening assignments, student presentations and classroom discussions, and will consist of one or two essay questions, which is/are devised to ensure that the student can synthesize and apply the material covered during the term. It will be due on a date mutually agreed upon by the class. Late submissions will not be accepted.

The instructor reserves the right to make adjustments to the dates of material covered and—given adequate advanced warning—also to the due dates of assignments. I must recognize the contributions of Andrew dell’Antonio and a number of other colleagues who have provided structural/sessional models and readings for this syllabus.
Week 1, September 12: Foundations: Dis/Ability Studies, Visible and Invisible Dis/ability

Lennard Davis, “Introduction: Normality, Power, and Culture,” in The Disability Studies Reader, 4th ed., ed. Lennard Davis (New York: Routledge and London, 2013), 1-14.

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, “Disability, Identity, and Representation: An Introduction,” Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 5-18.
Blake Howe, “Disability Studies for Musicians: An Introduction”
Samantha Bassler, “‘But You Don’t Look Sick’: A Survey of Scholars with Chronic, Invisible Illnesses and their Advice on How to Live and Work in Academia,” Music Theory Online 15:3 (2009).
Week 2, September 19: Foundations: Dis/Ability Studies and Music

Alex Lubet, “Tunes of Impairment: An Ethnomusicology of Disability,” Review of Disability Studies 1/1 (2004): 133-56.

Neil Lerner and Joe Straus, eds., “Introduction: Theorizing Disability in Music,” in Sounding Off: Theorizing Disability in Music (New York: Routledge, 2006), 1-10. Ebook
George McKay, “Introduction: Cultural Disability Studies and the Cripping and Popping of Theory” in Shakin’ All Over: Popular Music and Disability (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013), 1-18. Ebook
Jennifer Iverson, Review of Straus, Extraordinary Measures and Music, Disability, and Society, Journal of the American Musicological Society 65 (2012), 611-621.

Your Choice(s)

Week 3, September 26 Physical Dis/Ability 1

Straus, Extraordinary Measures, Chapter 7.

Lerner, “The Horrors of One-Handed Pianism: Music and Disability in The Beast with Five Fingers,” in Sounding Off, 75-90.
Blake Howe, “Paul Wittgenstein and the Performance of Disability,” The Journal of Musicology 27/2 (2010): 135–80.
Blake Howe, “Disabling Musical Performance,” Oxford Handbook of Music and Disability Studies, Chapter 10.

Horace Parlan, “Horace Parlan”; Lou Donaldson, “Bye Bye Blackbird,” ft. Horace Parlan

Maurice Ravel, Concerto pour la main gauche
Sergei Prokofiev, Concerto for Piano (Left Hand) and Orchestra, No. 4

Beast with Five Fingers (1946),
Week 4, October 3 Physical Dis/Ability 2

Laurie Stras, “The Organ of the Soul: Voice, Damage, and Affect,” in Sounding Off, 173–84.

Paul Attinello, “Fever/Fragile/Fatigue: Music, AIDS, Present, and…” in Sounding Off, 13-22.

Paul Attinello, “Time, Work, and Chronic Illness,” Music Theory Online 15/3 (2009).

“Django Reinhardt’s Three-Finger Genius,” TheCuriousPeople, at:
Oliver Sacks, “Athletes of the Small Muscles: Musicians’ Dystonia,” in Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (New York: Knopf, 2007), 264-275. TBD

Joe Cocker, “You Are So Beautiful”

Judy Garland, “Over the Rainbow” (1964 Palladium Concert)
AIDS Quilt Songbook
Django, performances from article above
Week 5, October 17: Sensory Dis/Ability: Blindness

Straus, Extraordinary Measures, 170-74.

Ingrid Sykes, “The Politics of Sound: Music and Blindness in France, 1750–1830,” Oxford Handbook on Music and Disability, Chapter 5.
Jennifer Iverson, “Dancing out of the Dark: How Music Refutes Disability Stereotypes in Dancer in the Dark,” Sounding Off, 57-74.

Terry Rowden, The Songs of Blind Folk: African-American Musicians and the Cultures of Blindness (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2009), 1-13, 35–63 and 85–121. TBD


Overture, Dancer in the Dark

“I’ve Seen It All,” “Cvalda” Dancer in the Dark;
Blind Tom Wiggins,;
Week 6, October 31: Sensory Dis/Ability: Deafness

Douglas C. Baynton, “Beyond Culture: Deaf Studies and the Deaf Body,” in Open Your Eyes: Deaf Studies Talking, ed. H-Dirksen L. Bauman. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008.

Jeannette DiBernardo Jones, “Imagined Hearing: Music Making in Deaf Culture,” Oxford Handbook of Music and Disability Studies, Chapter 3.
Anabel Maler, “Songs for Hands: Analyzing Interactions of Sign Language and Music,” Music Theory Online 19/1 (2013).
George McKay, “Johnnie-Be-Deaf: One Hearing-Impaired Star, and Popular Music as Disabling (Deafening) Culture,” in Shakin’ All Over, 120-49.

Evelyn Glennie, TED Talk:

Sean Forbes, TED Talk:
Christine Sun Kim, Deaf sound artist:
Beethoven’s Nightmare, “Turn It Up Louder”
Week 7, November 7: Cognitive Dis/Ability 1: “Madness”, Depression, etc.
Petra Kuppers, “Bodies, Hysteria, Pain: Staging the Invisible,” in Bodies in Commotion: Disability & Performance, ed. Carrie Sandahl and Philip Auslander (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005), 147–62,
“Mad Science: The Treatment of Mental Illness Fails to Progress,”
James Deaville, “Sounds of Mind: Music and Madness in the Popular Imagination,” Oxford Handbook of Music and Disability Studies, Chapter 32.
James Deaville, “More Than the Blues: Clinical Depression, Invisible Disabilities and Academe,” Music Theory Online 15/3 (2009)

“Crazy” music: Beethoven String Quartet in F major, op. 59, no. 1 – 2nd movement

Music “by” the “insane”: Schumann, Geistervariationen (1854)
Music exploiting the mad: Stalaggh - Projekt Misanthropia
Week 8, November 14: Cognitive Dis/Ability 2: Autism and “Intellectual Disability”
Joseph Straus, “Autism as Culture,” in The Disability Studies Reader, 460-84. TBD
Dave Headlam, “Learning to Hear Autistically,” in Sounding Off, 109-20.
Michael Bakan, “Making Change: Music, Meaning, and Autism,” TEDTalk/TEDxFSU, Augustus B. Turnball III State Conference Center, Florida State University (12 April 2012),
S. Timothy Maloney, “Glenn Gould, Autistic Savant,” in Sounding Off, 121–36.

Find the autistic classical composer.

Glenn Gould, performance TBA
Michael Bakan (director), “Artism 4-7-12 drum battle-concert”
Week 9, November 21: Cognitive Dis/ability 3: Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Mental Health Foundation, “Dementia, Rights, and the Social Model of Disability. A New Direction for Policy and Practice?

Edward Said, “Thoughts on Late Style,” London Review of Books, 26/15 (August 5, 2004), at
Straus, “Disability and ‘Late Style’ in Music,” The Journal of Musicology 25/1 (2008): 3-45.

“Man in Nursing Home Reacts To Hearing Music From His Era”

Franz Liszt, “Nuages gris”
Aaron Copland, “Night Thoughts”
Week 10, November 28: Physical Dis/Ability 3 -Prostheses / Music Therapy

Sarah S. Jain, “The Prosthetic Imagination: Enabling and Disabling the Prosthesis Trope,” Science, Technology, and Human Values 24 (1999); 31–54.

Handbook of Neurologic Music Therapy. Ed. Michael Thaut and Volker Hoemberg. New York: OUP, 2014.
Laurie Stras, “Subhuman or Superhuman? (Musical) Assistive Technology, Performance Enhancement, and the Aesthetic/Moral Debate,” Oxford Handbook of Music and Disability Studies, Chapter 9.

Björk, “There’s More to Life Than This”

Imogen Heap, “Me the Machine”
Janelle Monáe, “Many Moons”
Pauline Oliveros’s adaptive musical instrument:
Week 11, December 5: Scholarship and Advocacy

Katie Ellis, Gerard Goggin and Mike Kent, “FCJ-188 Disability’s Digital Frictions: Activism, Technology, and Politics,” The Fibreculture Journal 26 (2015),

Christine Kelly, “Towards Renewed Descriptions of Canadian Disability Movements:

Disability Activism Outside of the Non-Profit Sector,” Canadian Journal of Disability Studies 2/1 (2013).

Carmel: Alex Lubet, “The Inclusion of Music/The Music of Inclusion,” International Journal of Inclusive Education 13/7 (2009):727-39.

Leonard Cheshire Disability Young Voices, “Disability is Not Inability”

Week 12, December 9 (Friday): Dis/Modernism?

Aimi Hamraie,” Universal Design and the Problem of “Post-Disability” Ideology,” Design and Culture 8:3 (2016): 285-309

Lennard Davis, “The End of Identity Politics: On Disability as an Unstable Category,” in The Disability Studies Reader, 263–77. TBD


Final submission of assignments is governed by the deadlines imposed by the University. All assignments are due not later than the deadlines set by the University Senate for each semester. Instructors are not allowed to grant extensions beyond these dates. Students who cannot meet these deadlines must request a deferral from the Registrar's Office in 300 Tory. University deadlines are as follows: Fall term, 2016: December 9th.


Normally, only a medical certificate is acceptable as a justification for a late assignment. However, a medical certificate does not give you an unlimited extension. The documents you provide must indicate precisely the period of time during which you were incapacitated, and the extension will be granted accordingly.


Read the sections “Instructional Offences” and “Offences of Conduct” in the Carleton University Calendar. Plagiarism is considered an extremely serious offence with equally serious consequences. Using material from secondary sources (including web sites) without explicitly giving credit to the source constitutes plagiarism. Furthermore, except when it is explicitly stated in the syllabus that a given assignment involves team work, all essays and tests are to be done individually. Appropriating material from a fellow student for an essay or a test constitutes plagiarism.

The Paul Menton Centre for Students with Disabilities (PMC) provides services to students with Learning Disabilities (LD), psychiatric/mental health disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), chronic medical conditions, and impairments in mobility, hearing, and vision. If you have a disability requiring academic accommodations in this course, please contact PMC at 613-520-6608 or for a formal evaluation. If you are already registered with the PMC, contact your PMC coordinator to send me your Letter of Accommodation at the beginning of the term, and no later than two weeks before the first in-class scheduled test or exam requiring accommodation (if applicable). Requests made within two weeks will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. After requesting accommodation from PMC, meet with me to ensure accommodation arrangements are made. Please consult the PMC website ( for the deadline to request accommodations for the formally-scheduled exam (if applicable).

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