Student Author(s)

Leah Reinardy, Hope College

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. David Keep, Music; Dr. Benjamin Krause, Music

Document Type


Event Date



The field of Disability Studies has only begun to intersect with scholarship in music theory and musicology in the last two decades. Mad Studies, a subfield of Disability Studies, reframes Madness as a sociocultural identity instead of individualizing it as "mental illness". Joseph Straus categorizes commentary on Mad musicians based on the binary of the medical and sociocultural models of disability. These categories are all based in the medical model and are based on the degree of correlation between a composer's music and Madness. While these categories are useful to explore common tropes such as the "mad genius" or the "tortured artist", they do not fully address the systems of oppression that impacted the lives and music of twentieth-century Mad jazz musicians. Jazz pianist Thelonious Monk was famous for his dissonant, playful musical and personal aesthetic. Popular narratives around this aesthetic have focused on Monk as either a "mad genius" or a "man-child". Monk's ballad "Crepuscule with Nellie" directly undermines both of these narratives by serving as a serious, expressive, and realized piece of art. The analysis of this piece embedded within the context of popular media confronts typical stereotypes of Monk with thoughtfully rendered artistic statements.

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Music Commons