Stefan Sunandan Honisch

Vulnerability As Hidden Capacity: Disabled Bodies In Competitive Musical Performance

International piano competitions leave disabled pianists vulnerable to harsh treatment by juries, critics, and audiences eager to prove that they are not themselves vulnerable to the emotional responses which disability often elicits. In response to this negative framing, disabled pianists often insist on separating their disability from their musical abilities.


Stefan Sunandan Honisch,
postdoctoral researcher

My postdoctoral research locates the convergence of vulnerability and disability as a productive framework for discovering novel aesthetic experiences, and reimagining embodied differences delving into the critical and popular reception of musicians with disabilities in international piano competitions. Responding to vulnerability as a hidden capacity within the competitive arena, I argue, demands a sustained rethinking of the affective, sensory, physical, and cognitive limits imposed upon disabled bodies in contexts ranging from musical encounters between competitors, jurors, critics, and audiences, to the pedagogical systems in which virtuosity, a fictive transcendence of the vulnerable body, acquires its prized status.