Call for Papers
Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies
Special Issue: Music, Voice, and Disability
Co-editors: Dr. Nina S. Eidsheim and Dr. Jessica A. Holmes
In disability activism and studies, the power ascribed to the voice and its manifold rhetorical and symbolic iterations cannot be overstated: activists and scholars have long fought to be heard. They use both speech and written text to raise awareness for the systemic oppression of disabled people with the aim of improving their social condition. Paradoxically, however, “disability rights movements and disability studies have been slow to recognize the ways in which hearing and speaking confer privilege,” as Susan Burch and Alison Kafer explain (Burch and Kafer 2010).
Indeed, the struggles of those without access to normative voice often go unheard relative to the vocally fluent disabled mainstream, both because of the presumption of communicative normalcy, and the visual orientation of much existing scholarship outside of Deaf studies. More generally, Christopher Eagle notes that, “every incarnation of identity politics has depended at one point in its history on a largely unexamined notion of fluency,” such that, “access to normal speech, is hardly ever raised in discussions of political marginalization” (Eagle 2013). At the same time, those with so-called “speech disorders” (e.g. stuttering, lisping, aphasia, etc.) who speak in ways that seemingly disrupt the expected flow of speech, as well as members of the neurodivergent and Deaf communities who communicate using visual-spatial language as opposed to speech are often subject to an intense scrutiny that mirrors the visual stigmatization of disability. This marginalization is all the more potent given the pathologization of speech disorders in medical discourse, and the precondition of voice in Western metaphysical conceptions of subjecthood. Thus, not only in relation to existing able-bodied norms, but also vis-à-vis the disability community, those with dysfluent voices occupy a liminal space on account of the visually ambiguous terms of their disabilities: they are often “expected to perform on the same terms as the able-bodied” (St. Pierre 2012). The vocally dysfluent potentially expose and unsettle the constructed dimensions of vocal normalcy alongside the ocularcentric bias in existing disability theory by virtue of their sonic non-compliance.
Music, as a sonic medium, offers new ways of approaching questions of disability as an envoiced phenomenon. Indeed, music scholars have recently begun exploring the intersections of disability and vocal production, with notable emphasis on the damaged, dysfluent (singing) voice in relationship to notions of bodily authenticity, trauma, and specific generic conventions, including valuable work by Caitlin Marshall, George McKay, Jessica Schwartz, and Laurie Stras. Similarly, new scholarship on music and deafness has approached vocality through the musical endeavours of members of Deaf culture, and the inherent musicality of sign language as a silent, visual-spatial form of vocality (Jones 2015; Maler 2015; Holmes 2016; 2017; Meizel 2018).
In an effort to build on this new branch of music scholarship while confronting the ways in which vocal disabilities are rendered liminal in both scholarship and praxis, this special journal issue considers notions of music, voice, and disability. We seek articles, position papers, and “voicings” such as practitioners’ reflections, vocal scores, excerpts of performances, and audio transcripts that interrogate the role of the voice, broadly construed, in the construction of disability in a variety of performative contexts. We invite submissions dealing with disability and voice in all genres of music and performance practices from all historical periods, that engage an interdisciplinary framework, and that attend to questions of intersectionality.
Possible considerations include, but are not limited to:
● How does disability transform existing conceptions of musical voice, vocal ability/prowess, vocal beauty, etc.?
● How does music sound out the precarious and arbitrary terms of disability in relationship to the voice? More specifically, how might genre, vocal affect, and vocal style shape our perception of disability, and determine its contextual relevance?
● How does disability relate to discourse concerning the relationship between “proper” singing technique and vocal health? How might the stigma associated with the damaged voice in certain musical genres be understood as analogous to the stigma associated with visible disability, and how might it differ? How does the damaged singing voice throw into sharp relief the conceptual slippage between disability and chronic injury?
● How might singing inform the relationship between disability and other positions of marginality and categories of identity?
● How does disability enrich the sensory contours of the singing voice, drawing attention to what Nina Eidsheim has called the “internal corporeal choreography” of voice as well as its external, non-aural manifestations (Eidsheim 2015)?
● How does disability reinforce and/or unsettle the dualism of body/voice that has long pervaded high-art discourse on classical singing?
● How have music and singing served disability activism? How does music envoice the struggles, anxieties, and desires of the disability community?
Abstracts of no more than 500 words should be emailed by March 15, 2018 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Successful authors will be invited to submit 6-8,000 word drafts of their contributions to the editors by May 1, 2018. Please visit http://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/journals/view-Journal,id=248/ for more information on the Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies, and, for Notes for Contributors, http://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/MediaManager/File/style%20guide(journals)-1.pdf.
Jessica Holmes is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Musicology at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. Her book project, Music at the Margins of Sense, engages the misconceptions associated with music and deafness through the first-hand accounts of d/Deaf musicians and listeners to pluralize existing conceptions of musical experience. She completed her PhD in Musicology at McGill where she won the 2017 Schulich School of Music’s Outstanding Teaching Award. Her work on music and deafness appears in consecutive volumes of the Journal of the American Musicological Society (JAMS), and she has presented her research at the annual meetings of the American Musicological Society (AMS), the Society for American Music, and the Society for Disability Studies. She has also reviewed articles for JAMS and written reviews for Ethnomusicology Review and Sound Studies. She is the chair of the AMS Music and Disability interest group, and serves as an appointed member of the AMS committee on cultural diversity.
Nina Eidsheim is Professor of Musicology and Special Assistant to the Dean at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. As a scholar and singer, she investigates the multi-sensory and performative aspects of the production, perception and reception of vocal timbre in twentieth and twenty-first century music. Current monograph projects include Sensing Sound: Singing and Listening as Vibrational Practice (Duke University Press, 2015), and Measuring Race: the Micropolitics of Listening to Vocal Timbre and Vocality in African-American Popular Music (forthcoming, Duke UP). She is also co-editing the Oxford Handbook of Voice Studies (Oxford UP) and a special issue on voice and materiality for the journal, Postmodern Culture. In addition, she is the principal investigator for the UC-wide, transdisciplinary research project entitled Keys to Voice Studies: Terminology, Methodology, and Questions Across Disciplines.