Tekla Babyak, tbb8@cornell.edu

Disabled Independent Scholar with Multiple Sclerosis

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 advocate with multiple sclerosis. Structural ableism has prevented her from finding any form of stable employment. However, she is very active as a conference presenter, academic writer, and invited guest speaker. She 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 ideas about how to uplift disabled voices in academia. Tekla often serves as a consultant to help university presses develop accessibility policies for disabled authors. In Nov. 2022, she was interviewed by the scholarly publishing platform Scholastica on “Steps journals can take to support authors living with disabilities.”

As an interdisciplinary scholar, Tekla works on philosophical aesthetics, hermeneutic analysis, and theology in 19th-century music. Her interests include musical temporalities of regeneration as expressed through harmonic and formal processes in Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Joachim, Liszt, and Brahms. Recent publications have appeared in Journal of the Royal Musical Association; Bibliotheca Dantesca; Current MusicologyHistorians Without Borders: New Studies in Multidisciplinary History (Routledge); and Rethinking Brahms (OUP).

Across her wide variety of research fields, Tekla always brings an activist-oriented perspective to her projects. For the sake of disability pride and visibility, she openly discloses her MS in her contributor bios for publications and on her conference name badges. Her goal is to show that a disabled independent musicologist can make a meaningful contribution to academic scholarship and social justice.


PhD, Musicology, Cornell University, 2014

Other Publications

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.



Blog Posts


    -Diatonic 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); relationship between ideas of mode and climate, geography, and body

    -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



    American Musicological Society; American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies; Goethe Society of North America; Modern Language Association; Society for Disability Studies; Society for Music Theory

    Tekla Babyak

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