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Publication Detail
Insights in sound: Visually-impaired musicians' lives and learning
Abstract
"Visually-impaired musicians' lives" (VIML) is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) at the Institute of Education, University of London, and has two partners, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Royal Academy of Music, London. It is investigating the musical experiences of blind and partially-sighted people through life history interviews and an online survey. This encompasses instrumentalists, singers, composers and music teachers from amateurs to professionals, with respondents contributing from various countries (e.g. Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Burundi, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, the UK and USA). There are longstanding traditions of "blind musicianship" across the world, e.g. in Sierra Leone (Ottenberg, 1996), minstrelsy in the Ukraine (Kononenko, 1998) and in Japan (De Ferranti, 2009; Lubet, 2011; Groemer, 2012), to the early jazz of the US Southern States (Batterson, 1998; Southall, 1999; Harrah, 2004; Rowden, 2009; Fuqua, 2011). Prominent jazz and popular musicians in recent years, such as Ray Charles, George Shearing, Art Tatum and Stevie Wonder have, undoubtedly, amplified society's interest in visual impairment and music. This is clothed in "social lore" such as higher religious wisdom in itinerant minstrels or the assumption, on the part of many sighted people, that "in the absence of one sense another is augmented". Research, too, has explored notions of heightened musical cognitive and auditory capacities (e.g. Welch, 1988; Hamilton, Pascual-Leone & Schlaug, 2004; Melcher & Zampini, 2011; Dimatati et al., 2012). But, against this backdrop, what are the life experiences of today's visually-impaired musicians? This presentation will introduce some extraordinary musicians we have met. Themes of "accessibility" (e.g. of repertoire, music technology products, teaching practices), "independent mobility" (in relation to work) and "marginalisation" thread into these musicians' lives. Innovators combating the barriers they face will also be introduced: accessibility technology is sculpting the musical landscape for these people, yet also brings with it substantial challenges. With alternative score formats (e.g. Braille music, large print, modified stave notation, talking scores), musical learning processes differ too for the visually impaired, thus affecting genre choices and educational pathways. Drawing together the various threads, questions surrounding social inclusion in music-making will be raised.
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IOE - Culture, Communication & Media
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IOE - Culture, Communication & Media
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