“Musicology and Universal Design: Claiming the Consonant, the Dissonant, and the Resonant”


AMS Boston, November 2019

Deadline: May 10


The concept of “Universal Design” (UD) figures prominently in public discourse on disability as designers, architects, urban planners, and engineers aspire to create more inclusive spaces and objects that accommodate the needs of all bodies. UD avoids stigmatizing and segregating bodies by striving for equity and flexibility of use, obviating the need for retrofits. Like the built-environment, Western music encodes what Blake Howe describes as “corporeal finitude” in everything from scores, to instrument design, to pedagogy in ways that “enable some bodies, while disabling others.” The musical benefits of UD are thus evident through initiatives like the Adaptive Use Musical Instrument, and in public resources like The Avid Listener, Trax on the Trail, and the podcast, Switched on Pop. Yet, some scholars lament that UD’s emphasis on disability overshadows the ways accessibility is also race- and class-bound, and constructed along gendered lines, just as new multi-modal platforms risk excluding through their increased complexity.


The AMS Music and Disability Study Group invites proposals for presentations that probe the merits and limits of UD in theory and praxis— i.e. “claiming the consonant, dissonant, and resonant.” Possible topics might include but are not limited to: instrument and venue design; institutional, pedagogical, and legal frameworks for UD; musical literacy and language (i.e. Braille notation, the Black vernacular, trans rights and gender neutral pronouns, etc.); and the future of publishing. Alternative, creative presentation formats are very welcome!


Abstracts of no more than 350 words should be submitted to at- by May 10. Please send your proposal as a .pdf with identifying information removed. In the body of the email, please include your name, contact information, and requests for A/V and musical equipment.


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