From the advent of autism as a diagnosed disorder in the 1940s to the present day, the musical talents and affinities of autistic people have been widely recognized. Articles on autistic musical savants, studies on the high incidence of perfect pitch among autistic research subjects, and reports on the therapeutic value of music for autistic individuals have reinforced such impressions. Meanwhile, retrospective "diagnoses" of autism in late, great musicians such as pianist Glenn Gould and composer Bela Bartok have added an aura of mystique and allure to the popular image.
Given all this attention to the integral connection between music and autism, it is surprising how little effort has been made to ask autistic people themselves about how they make and experience music, and why it matters to them that they do. In Speaking for Ourselves, renowned ethnomusicologist Michael Bakan does just that, engaging in deep conversations - some spanning over the course of years - with ten fascinating and very different individuals who share two basic things in common: an autism spectrum diagnosis and a life in which music is central. These conversations offer profound insights into the intricacies and intersections of music, autism, neurodiversity, and life in general, not from an autistic point of view, but rather from many different autistic points of view. They invite readers to partake of a rich tapestry of words, ideas, and musical sounds that speak to both the diversity of autistic experience and the common humanity we all share.
About the Author:
Michael Bakan is Professor of Ethnomusicology, Head of the World Music Ensembles program, and Affiliated Faculty in Asian Studies at in the College of Music at Florida State University, where he directs the Balinese gamelan ensemble, the Omnimusica intercultural ensemble, and the Artism Ensemble.