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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Different eyes, ears, and bodies : pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii and the education of the sensorium through musical performance Honisch, Stefan Sunandan

Abstract

My dissertation explores the educative possibilities and limits of musical performance as a medium through which musicians and audiences reimagine sensory, affective, bodily, and cognitive experiences of music. The dissertation's focal point is a 2013 recital at the University of British Columbia by pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii, as part of Beyond the Screen: disAbility and the Arts, a series that raised questions about the reception of musicians with disabilities, the inclusion of disabled bodies in music pedagogy, and the meritocratic ethos that underpins competitive practices in music, education, and society. The polemical reception of Tsujii's shared gold medal with Haochen Zhang at the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas serves as the larger context for the present study. Speculation as to the role that Tsujii's blindness played in his favorable evaluation by the competition jury (Ivry, 2009) was countered by denial of any such influence (Kaplinsky, quoted in Wise, 2009), throwing into sharp relief a profound discomfort among musicians, critics and the general public with the disabled body in music. Tsujii himself declared shortly after the competition that he would like to be received as "simply a pianist" (Oda, 2009, para. 6) and has continued to resist the category of "blind pianist" (Ikenberg, 2014b, para. 8). Interviews with Tsujii and a purposive sample of eleven individual audience members following his 2013 UBC recital, combined with textual analysis of newspapers, magazines, and films documenting the pianist's career since 2009 locate Tsujii's reception in an educative gap between performer and audience, akin to that between teacher and student, a philosophical stance which emphasizes education as an interaction between the one who teaches and the one who learns (Biesta, 2004, p. 13). Showing how different levels of familiarity with the conventions of musical performance lead performers, critics, and audiences to interact with Tsujii as pianist and blind pianist in multiple and sometimes contradictory ways, this dissertation contributes to scholarship on the aesthetic and pedagogical significance of "person-first" versus "disability-first" language, the educative capacities of musical performance, and on the place of disabled bodies in music pedagogy.

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