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Music, Disability, and Society

Music, Disability, and Society

Alex Lubet
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 199
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  • Book Info
    Music, Disability, and Society
    Book Description:

    Musical talent in Western culture is regarded as an extraordinary combination of technical proficiency and interpretative sensitivity. InMusic, Disability, and Society, Alex Lubet challenges the rigid view of technical skill and writes about music in relation to disability studies. He addresses the ways in which people with disabilities are denied the opportunity to participate in music.

    Elaborating on the theory of "social confluence," Lubet provides a variety of encounters between disability and music to observe radical transformations of identity. Considering hand-injured and one-handed pianists; the impairments of jazz luminaries Django Reinhardt, Horace Parlan, and "Little" Jimmy Scott; and the "Blind Orchestra" of Cairo, he shows how the cultural world of classical music contrasts sharply with that of jazz and how musicality itself is regarded a disability in some religious contexts.Music, Disability, and Societyalso explains how language difference can become a disability for Asian students in American schools of music, limiting their education and careers.

    Lubet offers pungent criticism of the biases in music education and the music profession, going so far as to say that culture disables some performers by adhering to rigid notions of what a musician must look like, how music must be played, who may play it, and what (if any) is the legitimate place of music in society. InMusic, Disability, and Society, he convincingly argues that where music is concerned, disability is a matter of culture, not physical impairment.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0027-7
    Subjects: Sociology, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    This book chronicles a collection of “encounters” between disability and music. More precisely, it describes myriad ways in which disability identity is defined within musical institutions, whose often venerable and rigid attitudes, customs, and practices endow them with the status of largely autonomous cultural systems. Because music is so frequently deemed an extraordinary ability, its juxtapositions with disability are complex and reveal not only the ways in which disability is understood and treated across cultures but also the nature of both identity and social organization.

    The unifying theme that guides these encounters between music and disability is a theory of...

  5. 1 Piano Men, or the Right Hand Doesnʹt … No
    (pp. 14-41)

    We begin with what is arguably the best-known encounter between physical disability and music, one-handed classical pianism. This requires both a repertoire, mostly composed for the left hand, and artists to perform it. While these pieces can be and are performed by two-handed pianists, the significant onehanded works were written for disabled musicians. Though some were amputees, two of the most prominent, Gary Graffman (1928–) and Leon Fleisher (1928–), have right hands afflicted with a condition that largely (Garrett 2005), or in Graffman’s case only, affects their playing (Sacks 2008, 289–300). Their situation is a paradigm example...

  6. 2 Letʹs Face the Music and Dance: Jazz and Physical Disability
    (pp. 42-68)

    In Chapter 1, I proposed that, as a cultural system, jazz offers openings to the expression of impairment that have yet to exist in Western classical music. By this I mean that the protocols of jazz provide better opportunities for musicians with disabilities not only to perform, but to perform in ways that are actually expressions of lives with disabilities. What I am suggesting is subtle and complex. I am not suggesting that jazz as a cultural system is some sort of Eden for people with disabilities (PWDs) or anyone else. The difficulties of lives in jazz are many and...

  7. 3 Play Like an Egyptian: Music and Blind Culture
    (pp. 69-88)

    Wile Chapter 1 argues that classical music is an unforgiving social confluence because of the limits it imposes on musicians with impairments, Chapter 3 ultimately focuses on an extraordinary exception in extraordinary circumstances. The Al-Nour wal Amal (“Light and Hope”) Orchestra (sometimes referred to as the “Blind Orchestra”) of Cairo offers an example of the liberatory impact of a foreign music in transcending social norms, in this case for an ensemble of vision-impaired Egyptian women, almost all of whom are Muslim. While their repertoire and sound are mostly Western, it could be argued that their performance practice and perhaps also...

  8. 4 Losing … My Religion: Music, Disability, Gender, and Jewish and Islamic Law
    (pp. 89-133)

    Theories must be consistent to bear the rigor of the toughest, most extreme applications, such as those found in these final chapters. Until now our examples have been relatively straight-forward in terms of social model disability theory. Our subjects—pianists, jazzmen, and orchestral musicians—have all had physical or sensory impairments. The degree to which these impairments resulted in disability has differed radically according to life contexts or social confluences. For example, guitarist Django Reinhardt would have been regarded as minimally impaired in most U.S. policy and workplace contexts. Brilliant as a jazz guitarist, with an idiosyncratic, self-adapted technique, he...

  9. 5 Bringing It All Back Home, or Teach Your Children … Well?
    (pp. 134-170)

    I 2004 I was invited to interview for an administrative position at another university. The search produced no hire, one reason I have had time to write this book. Though the position was 80 percent administration, I was required to audition as both scholar and teacher. I was asked to give my job talk on the composition or musicology topic of my choice. When I informed the search chair I would be speaking on DS in music, I was asked to select another topic instead, preferably the Second Viennese School of composer Arnold Schoenberg and his pupils, the then-current topic...

  10. References
    (pp. 171-186)
  11. Index
    (pp. 187-199)