AboutTekla Babyak, Disabled Independent Scholar with MS
Tekla Babyak received her PhD in Musicology from Cornell University in 2014, supported by a Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Studies and a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship. Currently based in Davis, CA, she is an independent musicologist and disability activist who has multiple sclerosis. Structural ableism has prevented her from finding any form of stable employment. Nevertheless, she publishes her research, presents at conferences, gives invited guest lectures, and serves on committees for the American Musicological Society, the Society for Music Theory, and the Modern Language Association.
Her work falls broadly into two categories: disability activism in the academic humanities, and research on 19th-century musical aesthetics. Her Current Musicology
article “My Intersecting Quests as a Disabled Independent Scholar
” (2020) offers practical and philosophical strategies to uplift disabled voices in academia. One such initiative is for university presses to develop accessibility policies for authors. In Nov. 2022, Dr. Babyak was interviewed by the scholarly publishing platform Scholastica on “Steps journals can take to support authors living with disabilities
As an interdisciplinary scholar, she works on philosophical aesthetics, hermeneutic analysis, and spirituality in 19th-century German and French music. Her interests include musical temporalities of regeneration as expressed through harmonic and formal processes in Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Joachim, Liszt, and Brahms. She has published articles in Journal of the Royal Musical Association
, Bibliotheca Dantesca
, and Current Musicology
, as well as chapters in Historians Without Borders: New Studies in Multidisciplinary History
(Routledge, 2019) and Rethinking Brahms
Across her wide variety of research fields, Dr. Babyak always brings an activist-oriented perspective to her projects. For the sake of disability pride, she openly discloses her MS in her contributor bios for publications and conferences. Her goal is to show that a disabled independent musicologist can make a meaningful contribution to academic scholarship and social justice.
EducationPhD, Musicology, Cornell University, 2014
Work Shared in CORE
Course material or learning objects
“Rehearing Brahms’s Late Intermezzi: The Eternal Recurrence of Reflection
,” Rethinking Brahms
, eds. Nicole Grimes and Reuben Phillips (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2022), 142-155.
“My Intersecting Quests as a Disabled Independent Scholar
,” Current Musicology
(Fall 2020), 158-162.
“The Rubble of the Other: Beethoven’s Ruins of Athens
.” Historians Without Borders: New Studies in Multidisciplinary History,
eds. Lawrence Abrams and Kaleb Knoblauch (London and New York: Routledge, 2019), 9-23.
“Dante, Liszt, and the Alienated Agony of Hell
,” Bibliotheca Dantesca
, December 2018, Vol. 1, 196-218.
“Tropes of Transcendence: Representing and Overcoming Time in Nineteenth-Century Music
,” Journal of the Royal Musical Association
, Fall 2017, 142:2, 461-470.
ProjectsDiatonic church modes as a signifier of disability in 19th-century musical works (Beethoven’s Op. 132; Brahms’s Gesang der Parzen) and theory treatises (A.B. Marx)
Intersections between theology, pianism, and temporality in Beethoven, Brahms, Liszt, and Marie Jaëll
The Christian Enlightenment and its influence on 19th-century musical evocations of regeneration and immortality
MembershipsAmerican Brahms Society; American Musicological Society; American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies; Goethe Society of North America; Haydn Society of North America; Modern Language Association; North American Kant Society; Society for Music Theory