This is the sixth of our instructor-led online discussions for Mu 101 (Spring 2020). Refer to the handout you received the first day of class (click on this highlighted text to go to that page our class website) which describes the amount and kinds of contributions you’re expected to make to these online discussions (adding your own ideas, responding to others’ ideas, and asking questions that others can respond to) — these are all the same parameters of good conversation that happens offline, too!

The most effective comments in an online forum are short — think about how you skim past others’ comments if they’re more than a couple lines long instead of engaging closely with that person’s ideas! If everyone involved in these weekly conversations only posts a single long comment, it won’t be a conversation, and we won’t all benefit from opportunity to learn from each other. Rather than dropping in on the blog once during the week and adding a single long comment, think of this forum as an opportunity to have a conversation with your fellow classmates. A conversation, whether online or in person, involves back-and-forth contributions from everyone involved: adding something new based on your own experiences or ideas, asking questions, responding to the ideas of others. The best way to get the most out of this learning experience is to share your single best idea, give room for others to respond, and then build on each others’ contributions later in the week.

There are no questions at the end of this post to get the conversation going. Use your own critical thinking to make this conversation substantial: compare or contrast its ideas to your own experience or other things you’ve learned about, think about what surprises you, and think about what aspects resonate with or contradict your own experiences. The approximate reading time of this post is 9 minutes, not counting any audio media.

The body and “ability”

Our bodies carry us through the world. Sometimes we’re proud of our bodies; sometimes they fail us. Others react to our bodies: with pleasure, attraction, seeking comfort, recoiling in fear, or—before humans climbed to the top of the food chain—viewing us as prey. Each of our bodies is different, and that means we experience the world in slightly different ways: a space that feels claustrophobic to one person may feel cozy to another, or a distance that is easy to cross for one may be intimidatingly far for another. Weather that seems pleasant to you may be too hot, too cold, too sunny, or too windy for another person’s skin color, body fat percentage, or hair length. Your body is one of the first determinants in how you come to know the world physically and socially—how it feels, how it treats you, and your place in it.

One of the things that comes with living in a society is a sense of what is “normal.” We build doorways, cars, stairways, airplane seats, and clothing to fit the “average” body. Even the language we use implies that there is a baseline of normal, since we refer to some people as having disabilities or being disabled, but we don’t refer to other people as “living with abilities” or “being abled.”

Really, “normal” just average, the middle of the pack. And that means that almost no one is “normal.” We’re all above average in some aspects of our physicality and below average in others.

Bell-Curve

We’ve been talking a lot in class about our listening experiences and all the things that influence them: our past experiences, how we listen, where we listen… The same array of possible factors affects what music a musician makes, too!

Music can be seen as a musician’s interpretation of the world, and their interpretation partly comes from moving through the world in their bodies—each person has a unique array of physical attributes as well as all the sensations, experiences, attitudes, and assumptions that come along with his or her body. A musician’s unique musical perspective comes from how they walk, the rhythm of their heart and lungs, the physical capabilities or limitations of their music making, how people treat them based on their appearance, and what they notice from their physical vantage point.

Let’s look at some musicians whose abnormalities—including physical and mental disabilities—shape the sounds they make.

Physical disabilities

Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder

There are numerous examples of blind musicians throughout music history: Ray Charles (1930-2004) and Stevie Wonder (b. 1950) readily come to mind. And there are others, all of whom are imbued with a degree of reverence or magical awe by others, that somehow the loss of sight makes these musicians seem even more musically insightful

  • Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832), a German pianist-flutist-composer who lost his sight as a child when he tripped going down a set of stairs while hold glass containers, which shattered in his eyes
  • Blind Willie Johnson (1897-1945), a blues and gospel guitarist from Texas
  • Andrea Bocelli (b. 1958), an Italian pop-opera singer-composer

The eyes are so important that 19th-century meditating shakuhachi players adopted a reversed version of this blindness, covering their faces so passersby would be “blind” to the identity of the person playing the flute, allowing the sounds they made to seem even more timeless and powerful.

shakuhachi
Meditating shakuhachi players would wear a basket called a tengai to hide their faces while playing

Blind musicians have not traditionally participated in orchestras, because so much of the communication that happens in that ensemble is visual: gestures from the conductor. A pair of inventors in England in 2019 developed a haptic (vibration-based) baton to allow blind musicians to physically feel the visual gestures of a conductor:

Although the ability to see is crucial for much human interaction, it clearly isn’t an impediment to participating in music, which is a sonic medium. But deafness would be impossible for a musician, right?

That’s what Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) thought when he started going deaf at the end of the 18th century as a result of an infection, just as his career as a virtuoso pianist and composer was taking off. Suddenly, it was all gone: his livelihood, his life-long honed skills (he had been trained by his father from a very young age—remember this online discussion?), and the joy he took in listening to the birds and rustling grasses on his walks through the countryside. He already felt isolated and lonely—he wasn’t a particularly attractive man, and he didn’t have the patience to always mind his manners when speaking, to dress neatly, or to flatter the wealthy aristocrats of Vienna. So he’s a loner, someone who feels like an outsider in society, and he’s losing his one consolation: his exceptional musical talent.

In 1802, Beethoven went to Heiligenstadt, a country town outside Vienna where he would spend vacations. He was distraught—what point was there to living if he couldn’t be “BEETHOVEN THE SUPER AWESOME TALENTED MUSICIAN”? And he decided to kill himself.

Beethoven house Heiligenstadt
The house where Beethoven would stay while in Heiligenstadt

Spoiler alert: he didn’t.

Instead, he doubled down on being the best musician he could be, committing himself to creating music for the rest of his life, and he did so because he believed the world would be worse off if he did not. Think about the gravity, egoism, and confidence of that position: that Beethoven was so sure of his talent, his creativity, and his role in the world that he believed depriving others of his music would make him feel worse than the physical pain, social discomfort, and frustration of going deaf.

He penned a document now known as the Heiligenstadt Testament, in which he states that it was “only his art that held [him] back.” You can read the full text here: Beethoven – Heiligenstadt Testament

Beethoven’s decision not to kill himself—and to base that decision on the necessity of continuing to make music—plays an enormous role in his legacy, making him a revered, admired, intimidating, and inspiring figure for musicians and non-musicians alike from the 19th century onward (there’s more about the influential role Beethoven plays in music history here).

Deafness is less of an isolating trait today than it was in Beethoven’s time; sign language hadn’t yet been developed, doctors didn’t understand what caused deafness, and the idea of finding “empowerment” through overcoming challenges wasn’t anywhere near as popular of a narrative then as it is today (stoic resignation was a much more common reaction or attitude). Antoine Hunter, in contrast, is a deaf dancer-choreographer who runs a studio for other deaf dancers in San Francisco, and his life’s work is devoted to the empowerment of deaf people:

Just as with Hunter, being attuned to vibrations, even without being able to hear all of them, is part of how Evelyn Glennie (b. 1965), a deaf percussionist from Scotland, is able to perform—she’s typically seen onstage barefoot so she can feel what her instruments are doing, and her 2003 Ted Talk describes how she learned to better understand the world by using her whole body:

Mental health

Amy Winehouse. Jimi Hendrix. Jim Morrison. Kurt Cobain. Chris Cornell. Chester Bennington. Mac Miller.

Musicians who’ve suffered from mental illness and died from suicide and/or drug and alcohol overdoses seem commonplace. Mental health issues are common among musicians who are still alive and seemingly functional, as well, including anxiety disorders (Adele, Zayn Malik, Britney Spears, Barbra Streisand), eating disorders (Elton John, Paula Abdul, Demi Lovato), depression (Lady Gaga, Sia, Bruce Springsteen, Kid Cudi), and performance anxiety (extremely common in the classical music world—just think about the pressure surrounding orchestral auditions!).

Mental illness can be debilitating, particularly because it often doesn’t seem as obvious to observers as, say, a broken leg or a runny nose. There’s also a long-standing myth that creativity and mental illness go together—that abnormality and freakish talent go hand-in-hand—and it’s untrue, but for people whose identities are inextricably linked to being creative on demand, doing anything that might jeopardize that “gift” (like seeking professional help) can often feel unthinkable.

We partly have Beethoven and other 19th-century musicians to blame—Beethoven likely suffered from bipolar disorder. His letters, conversation books, and descriptions by contemporaries suggest this diagnosis, even though contemporary medicine did not contain that vocabulary yet. People found the idea of a tortured artist to be quite compelling in the 19th century, and this carried over into the 20th and 21st centuries. There are other examples of 19th-century classical musicians with diagnosed mental illness as well, and these reinforce the crazy-creative myth:

  • Hector Berlioz (1803-69), who self-medicated with opium and other drugs
  • Robert Schumann (1810-56), who walked himself into a river in his bathrobe to drown himself but failed and was committed to a mental institution
  • Anton Bruckner (1824-96), obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-93), whose depression was likely compounded by his shame over his sexual orientation and led to his suicide

When your body fails you

Then there are examples of musicians who don’t persevere—like Beethoven—and don’t spectacularly flame out at a young age—like Amy Winehouse—but instead whose bodies deteriorate and get the best of them over time, slowly changing or eliminating their ability to work: Lil Wayne and Prince, who both suffer from epilepsy; Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), whose compositional style changed as his brain deteriorated due to dementia; or Aaron Copland (1900-90), who simply could no longer come up with a single musical idea once Alzheimer’s set in (he lived for another 20 years after he last composed music in 1970).

Matisse - The Fall of Icarus 1943
The French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) turned to paper cutouts when his body would no longer let him paint after being diagnosed with cancer. The Fall of Icarus (1943)

“It was exactly as if someone had simply turned off a faucet.”

—Aaron Copland, describing his inability to come up with any musical ideas after his Alzheimer’s progressed

Avoidable injuries that musicians give themselves

There are also disabilities caused by music making. Overuse and excessive practice habits can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome and focal dystonia for instrumentalists. These injuries are common and often career-ending physical. There’s no cure for carpal tunnel syndrome (numbness and tingling in the hands and arms due to a compressed nerve) other than ceasing the activity that caused it—meaning, no more playing music. Focal dystonia, which causes involuntary spasms that contract muscles in the body, on the other hand, is neurological—it’s a problem in the brain caused by a “mismapping” of physical motions in the brain (the brain mixes up which muscles are activated by different parts of the brain, resulting in mixed signals). For musicians, this most often happens in the muscles they use to do the most precise work of playing their instruments: embouchures of wind and brass players, fingers of pianists. It’s possible to re-train one’s body and learn to play without triggering these spasms, as Chicago-based oboist Alex Klein was able to do.

The most common injury for singers is ruining of the vocal folds—Adele may never sing again because of her poor vocal technique, in which she creates a big sound by straining and tearing her vocal folds. Those kinds of vocal injuries are rarer in the classical world because operatic singers work with vocal coaches non-stop while in school and their professional careers to develop and maintain healthy technique. Melissa Cross is a vocal coach who works with metal and hardcore singers to be able to scream for hours on end, night after night on tour:

Music therapy

Music can also be used as a therapeutic tool to help people with all of the disabilities discussed above create a sense of home, belonging, confidence, and well-being. Making music is fun, motivating, social, and doesn’t rely on language skills—it’s an avenue for all kinds of people to find themselves.

For example, the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music has the largest clinical music therapy program in Brooklyn and provides music therapy in schools, senior centers, and community centers at 38 sites across New York City. The Conservatory works with 1,600 children, teens, adults, and seniors to help them reach their developmental, physical, social, and emotional goals through music therapy, including people with developmental, cognitive, and neurological delays; Autism spectrum disorders; Alzheimer’s and dementia; and emotional and psycho-social trauma.

Below is a quick but touching introduction to the work the Brooklyn Conservatory does in its music therapy program:

Final thoughts

Disability studies is an emerging area of inquiry in the musicological world, with publications only appearing in the last decade or so. In his 2011 book, Extraordinary Measures: Disabilities in Music, music theorist Joe Straus frames the concept of “disability” as a social construct, not a medical condition: our societal needs decide and define what is “disabling” based on what activities we collectively expect, need, or value. There are aspects of music making that thrive due to traits that might otherwise be disabling—social anxiety, narcissism, autism, obsessive compulsive disorder—but these traits can be crippling in musical contexts, too. We don’t typically tell the stories of musicians whose physical, mental, or neurological traits completely prevented them from achieving fame, accolades, or success*—just the ones who were “normal” enough to use their abnormalities to their advantage.

*But what is success, really?

-Dr. J.

60 thoughts on “Music and disability (Online discussion Mar 2-8)

    1. I agree completely, I like the example with the dancer who was deaf.He uses the vibration of the music to dance on beat, after reading this article it made me realize how beneficial music actually is!

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  1. Many of videos are being shared on YouTube of people with disabilities singing or doing an extraordinary skill of some sort that I find quite satisfying. It shows the world is changing from discriminating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree! All the videos showed that you can have a disorder and still be successful. Having a disability will not define you!

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  2. Many of videos are being shared on YouTube of people with disabilities singing or doing an extraordinary skill of some sort that I find quite satisfying. Also too I have noticed people with disabilities are treated much better compared few years ago. They are motivated through social media where viewers like and share their videos

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  3. I think it was admirable for Beethoven to continue producing quality music even when his auditory faculties failed him. If it weren’t for his determination, we wouldn’t have arguably some of the best classical music the world has ever known. I hope future musicians will be just as determined and inspirational in their work.

    As for a question posed to everyone…
    What did you find most inspiring in the reading above? Did you find Beethoven inspiring like I did? What do you think you would’ve done if you were in his shoes? I don’t think I would’ve been able to continue if I lost the ability to hear. His condition truly sounded miserable, but he didn’t let the condition actually become miserable, which is fascinating.

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    1. Hi Cardi,
      I agree with you about Beethoven, I think is admirable how he overcome his challenges and how music transform difficulties into beautiful things. In my opinion the fact that Beethoven had a disability and became a worldwide master gives him a higher merit.

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    2. What I found inspiring was that all of these people really didn’t give up when the odds were against them and this shows how anything is possible with determination.

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    3. Hi Cardi,
      I have to agree. But what is most compelling to me is their determination and there gumption. There are so many people who give up because of there disability and there are so many more that succeed because of it. The sheer determination that drives these people to conquer whatever they set their mind to is awe inspiring. I wish we could all have the same determination. Oh what we could do if we had it!?!

      I find anyone who does what they want even if they are told they can not because of whatever disability, inspiring.

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    4. The thing that I found most inspiring was the fact that Beethoven was able to continue making music instead of giving up. If I was in his shoes I don’t think I would have continued to make music. It’s hard to imagine being deaf and making music. I honestly wouldn’t have thought that was really possible and I would have been depressed similar to how he was.

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  4. Overall i think Beethoven, Evelyn Glennie and Antoine Hunter are very inspiring and it makes you think that anything is possible with determination and it makes you realize that you are the only person in your way of your success.

    What are your thoughts and feelings about all these musicians going through mental illness?

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    1. I believe musicians that go through mental illness should get help as soon as possible or find some way to cope with it other than drugs. Many musicians die from drug overdose, and they do not have anybody to stop them. Musicians should try to confide in a friend or keep someone around that they know will keep them from falling off the rails. It is important to have someone to talk to so you can express your feelings and vent.

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      1. As someone that struggles with depression, I understand your sentiment but sometimes it isn’t that easy to get help. I also feel like you’re overgeneralizing drugs and overdose, since there are drugs that assist in treating mental illnesses. I do agree in confiding in a friend, or rather, having that one friend that checks in on you without you having to search them out and feeling like a burden on them. But that’s my two cents.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Some I feel as though they aren’t making it better for themselves by getting into and misusing drugs. There is always a better way to make yourself better

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  5. It is very admirable that music will always attract people, even people with disabilities. Disabilities that increases the difficulties to produce art. Yet these disabilities wouldn’t stop their love for music. There was a singer that appeared on America’s Got Talent; she was deaf. She auditioned with a song that she made herself.
    I don’t know, it just makes it more sentimental. Disabilities can’t stop people’s determinations and love for music.

    Video of the deaf singer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKSWXzAnVe0

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Everyone,
    I think is beautiful when you read positive things like this week’s discussion just to remind us that everything is possible. I think part of being a musician is to love and embrace your instrument and your music and that was Beethoven’s behavior when he had to confront his disability. In today’s society there are a lot of inspirational cases like Beethoven shows us that anything and everything is possible is you believe and work for it.
    Also music therapy is a great thing, I remember from our first week’s discussion that music stimulates a lot of part of our brain and improves our memory, helping patients with Alzheimer and other diseases.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think music, in some cases can actually be therapy – it doesn’t have to be “music therapy”.

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  7. In my opinion, most of the time when someone loves music, and becomes handicapped at some point in their life, it really discourages them in musical performance. It’s like that disability is telling them, “Give up! Quit what whatever you’re doing!” There might be some people who give in to that thought, but some people are strong enough to continue. While reading this article, I thought about the deaf singer, Mandy Harvey, from America’s Got Talent that I watched a couple of years ago. She lost all of her hearing when she was 18. I personally feel like if you’re a singer, but deaf, it is very difficult to sing songs because you wouldn’t be able to hear how you sound like. However, Mandy blew my mind away because she said that she is still able to sing because of the muscle memory from her vocal folds. Her performance made the audience very emotional since she persevered through her disability for her love of singing. Simon Cowell even gave her a golden buzzer for that performance. After watching that video, I think that musicians with disabilities play a huge role in the music world. Just their existence as musicians convey a message to everyone about how it is possible to still do what you love. There’s always a way around an obstacle.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Wats poppin yall, Stevie wonder one of my personal favorites, happens to be blind and still performs extremely well. Its amazing how even when he plays piano he knows exactly where the keys are and doesn’t make mistakes. He must have been taught from a young age to memorize the exact positioning of the keys. Like yo imagine being a blind musician. I think being blind would improve your imagination because you really can not see the world for what it truly is. You can only leave what the world looks like up to image in your head. What do you think blind people see? Is it just a vast darkness? Do they see a color? Why is harder to be a deaf musician than a blind one? By the way Lil Uzi dropped ETERNAL ATAKE go give that album a listen.

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  9. i found this reading inspiring because all of these people had disables and they persevered and achieved great things. This shows how anything is possible if you believe in yourselves. Do you think you would have given up on you dreams if you had a disability ? I hope not because anything is possible in this world

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I agree with this post, in regards to music being therapeutic for individuals who have disabilities. I happen to work with kids who have autism, and sometimes when these kids get upset, I notice when music is put on they’re so happy and calm. Does anyone know someone who who has autism, and have you experienced this?

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  11. It’s always great to see people overcoming adversity with disabilities. It gives me hope knowing that with enough dedication one would be able to continue their career in music.
    It’s also heartbreaking hearing musicians stop their careers early because of health issues.
    Do you all think you can still continue your dreams even with disabilities?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi everyone!!!
    I think the topic “Music and disability” is very interesting. Beethoven’s story stood out most to me.His determination, confidence and eagerness to continue doing what he loves despite being deaf is really inspiring and I think everyone can learn a lot from his experiences/challenges. Which musician’s story stood out most to you guys and why ?

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  13. Hey everyone, It amazing that even when battling with disabilities music always shines through. No matter the inhibitors wither it blindness or even deafness the musicians love of music always finds a way. It call also sooth some of the depressed feelings by allowing a way to express penned up emotions. Do u guys think that expressing through music can alleviate depression?

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  14. I’ve found this article to be one of the top readings so far. It intrigued me and pulled my attention, the way these musicians all types at that overcame the outsiders and still did what they had to do to do what they love most. When I think music and disability I think of the famous Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles. Although I know of them I didn’t know about much of their life and their background. Being born with a condition known as Retinopathy of prematurity which caused his blindness, Stevie didn’t let that bring him down at the early age of 4 he noticed his music love. From this point on he blew everyone away with his ability to write hits and create wonderful music. Not only did his history surprise me, It also shocked me to know many others are like Stevie. I question if you guys ever questioned yourself or doubted what you can do and realized that self-doubt it was stops us from achieving the greater things.

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  15. This is very interesting to watch because it shows that people with disabilities can do certain things just like a person who wasn’t disabled

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    1. I totally agree but I also think that I goes even further to show that because people disabilities may not have the same senses or mentally capacities as the “average” person, they have to learn how to do certain things in ways that “abled” people cannot because of those key differences.

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  16. Hey everyone I think what yvie25 said was the perfect way to say it. Disabilities that increases the difficulties to produce art. Yet these disabilities wouldn’t stop their love for music. To me this is what I love about music it doesn’t matter what happened to you your passion to create music is still there. In the Beethoven story that’s what I love to hear his confidence and determination to do what he loves most creating art,music with being deaf. I also relate to bcelestain because I also think of ray charles and Stevie wonder when I think of successful people with disabilities. Who does everyone else think of when it comes to starts that the love who have disabilities ?

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  17. Hey guys. It was amazing to see that when faced with adversity Beethoven, Antoine Hunter, and Evelyn Glennie persevered and still come to learn more about their passion of music by using things from the outside world and their own bodies. Although, it may be bitter sweet, where one part of their bodies may have failed them, they found other ways to still experience music. It’s humbling and something that at least I took for granted until now. Did anyone else feel that way?

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    1. I thought it was cool how we could be humbled by their experiences while it was literally the opposite of humility that motivated Beethoven to keep writing music.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Good afternoon everyone, I completely agree with you guys. Musicians with disabilities can do wonders. Beethoven is well known for his music. It’s amazing how he was so determined and went this far. Success doesn’t define what you aren’t capable of doing but what your good at doing and these musicians have proved themselves with disabilities they have become successful.

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    1. yea about Beethoven its crazy how he was death and was able to make beautiful music I read he put a pencil in his mouth and touched the piano to feel the vibrations

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  19. This topic is very interesting. This shows that music is more than hearing it also touch and feel. Referring to the blind and deaf men, having those disabilities didn’t stop them from interacting with music.

    What are some of some of y’all thoughts on the way these men find ways to interact with music ?

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    1. i believe that those that are disabled like the blind and deaf men have a different appreciation for music than we do and can use music to communicate in ways their disability prevents

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  20. This topic was very nice to learn and cool. I agree with you guys and do think that musicians with disabilities can do a wonder and even be better then musicians that arent disabled. It’s actually incredible how some of these musicians with disabilities were able to learn and be able to play.

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  21. I found the topic about dancing while deaf interesting because I remember watching a show where someone that was playing the role of a deaf person explained that they hear music by feeling the vibrations from the beat, which I thought was really interesting. which section were you guys most intrigued by?

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  22. I think this article is interesting because I feel like people who play/make music that are disabled are gifted in music as if they were born to play it, like Beethoven

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  23. What is success, really?

    It`s a matter of how you or people view success. Some humans would view success as fame, women, luxury materials. Some human would use their gifted talents in music to heal and make peace for others in music and that is a success of pleasure, comfort. Another type of human would use music to better understand themselves, seek out a completely different view from a different perspective, finding the true them, and that too is a success.

    As for this discussion, I feel for them. Disable but ongoing, view differently because they may not have the same 5 senses as you. You have sight, they may not. You’re able to hear nature, they may not. Perhaps some may not even have limbs like you, legs to step, arms to play. Some were born to be, some lost it throughout their lives. Born to adjust, or live on to adapt like Beethoven, talented man, gifted, but became deaf at a time with no sign language, no cure. Frightening. Or like Friedrich Kuhlau who lost his sight as a child when he tripped down a set of stairs while holding glass containers that shattered in his eyes. Or like Hunter born deaf but is a dancer, a director, and founder that helps and guides many disabled like him. Or like the person who helped blind musicians feel conducting. And to those musicians that gave up, they did great, it definitely wasn`t easy. I to might just might give up like the others. But to the ones who didn`t, that are making the world a better place for the disabled, amazing deed and props to you guys.

    Disable. Meh, don’t like that word. They may be different, but they’re living and understanding life much deeper like ones with all 5 senses. Disagree? Object? Well, this is my state of mind. But really what if you were in their shoes, would you be as strong as some or like others off to another world? With no disrespect thought.

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  24. i agree that music being therapeutic for individuals who have disabilities. And I was really surprise that can do almost the same thing that without it can do. You really wouldn’t believe that was true. A distance that is easy to cross for one may be intimidatingly far for another

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    1. I completely agree with you. We as the common bunch take music and sound for granted sometimes, then we see the great lengths some people go to hear these songs, and it brings into perspective how lucky we truly are.

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  25. I always wondered how the “tortured artist” standard people love came about and I find it interesting how society seemingly loves music and the artists that compose and create it, while at the same time encouraging this type self destructive lifestyle that could end with the artist possibly overdosing or committing suicide. What do you guys think draws people to this type of aesthetic when it comes to musicians?

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  26. hello everyone.
    I found this article so inspiring because some people worry about things they change like their body weight. If you are fat you can make a diet plan, work out and change that. If you are skinny, you can eat more, build you muscle up and change it but the people in this article can’t change what happened to them, for example, once you are blind, thats it you can’t see no more. and the same goes for the people that cant walk, that are deaf but they still found a way to play music, make music and dance to it.
    what would you guys do if you were disable??

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  27. Whilst reading this, I could only think back to when I watched a deaf musician by the name of Mandy Harvey on AGT. It was so beautiful, seeing how she connected to the music and having that feeling of how wonderful she is for completing a difficult task. She was able to feel the vibrations of the floor to keep track of the music and sing along to it, just how the dancer did it. Truly Amazing

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  28. Out of all the discussions we’ve done so far this is by far the most interesting one as well as one discussion I had a very soft spot for. I didn’t know there was so many musicians who had a disability or was suffering from mental illness. Imagine trying to be a upcoming musician and you have a disability…ehhh I’m not liking that word so let’s go with “unfit” since it sounds less insulting. As for Dr.J question “what is success?” Well success can mean a lot of things honestly depends on how people interpret it. For me success means being able to succeed and achieve any desired goals, visions or dreams. Also can be a purpose you have. Reading about all these different musicians and learning that they all had something that made them different from regular musicians is really fascinating. One of the musician that caught my attention was Friedrich Kuhlau who lost his sight as a child when he tripped down a set of stairs while holding glass containers that shattered in his eyes. I really felt for him. I have my 5 senses without any problems but imagine only being limited to like 4 out of the 5 or even 3 out of the 5. Disability didn’t stop him from producing classical music. That’s true determination. That’s success. But here’s a question for everyone. What would you do if your 5 senses were limited if you were trying to become a successful artist in this century we live in? What would you do to become a well known successful artist and overcome all the obstacles that are thrown at you?

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  29. @Jennifer I definitely agree with you. People in our generation take our 5 senses for granted sometimes compare to someone who doesn’t have all 5 and still trying to make life worthwhile and be positive. But if I were in their shoes I would be strong. You can’t expect to succeed if you don’t face couple obstacles. Not everything always works out in everyones favor.

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  30. @isabelle Definitely took life for granted until doing this discussion and feeling for all the artist who have some kind of limitation in life.

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  31. Reading through this article I could only wonder how much my own mental illness is keeping me from performing music like I used to as a child. Things like “I’m not good enough,” “I’m out of practice,” “it’s not like you’ll ever perform in front of an audience,” “what a waste of talent” run through my head whenever I watch videos of other musicians performing or when I glance at the dusty piano in my living room. But then there are all of these stories of musicians overcoming their disabilities, mental and physical, that make me go “maybe I could do that again.” It’s pretty inspiring. I wonder if there’s anyone else here struggling with a disability that hinders a hobby they love. I hope you guys got inspired by this post as I have.

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  32. I found this reading to be very interesting in the sense that it opened my eyes to how there aren’t any real barriers in music. Looking at the history of music, we have blind musicians, deaf musicians, musicians with mental issues and so on. Your senses are superficial in the word of music. Music is a sensation. I also found it sad to read about musicians who suffered from things like dementia or Alzheimer’s as it affected or stopped their ability to make music. Essentially those people lost the thing that they loved most and were left with nothing but the memories. Technically not even the memories as everything is lost in the madness. It’s a tragic end.

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  33. One question I had after reading all of this is does loss of your senses possibly make you a better musician than someone who does have theirs. We’ve seen people like ray charles and Stevie wonders. Two Incredible musicians who are both blind. Perhaps their lack of vision made them have a sharper ear for music.

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  34. I love this discussion because when I was in elementary school I wanted to play a violin but physically I couldnt because of my arm disability. I ended up playing the baritone horn and even though I didnt like it at first when I learned the deeper meaning that it had behind the instrument, I fell in love. From elementary school, till my senior year in highschool I played the baritone.

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  35. Some blind musicians are Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. They did not let being blind stop them from making music. Making music is fun and social. Antoine Hunter is a deaf dancer choreographer.

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