Tekla Babyak


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. She is currently an independent musicologist and disability activist based in Davis, CA. Her disabling condition, multiple sclerosis, has prevented her from finding stable employment in the ableist workforce.

Her work falls broadly into two categories: disability activism in the academic humanities, and research on 19th-century musical aesthetics. As described in her Current Musicology article, “My Intersecting Quests as a Disabled Independent Scholar,” her activist work combines practical and philosophical ideas about how to uplift disabled voices in academia. Her activism also involves her participation in activities from which disabled independent scholars are often excluded. These activities include giving guest lectures in university humanities courses, contributing to edited collections such as Rethinking Brahms (published by OUP), and chairing panels for the Goethe Society of North America. She also serves as a consultant to help university presses develop disability accommodation policies for authors.

Tekla is an interdisciplinary scholar whose research focuses on 19th-century German and French music, literature, and philosophy. Her publications have appeared or will soon appear in Journal of the Royal Musical Association; Bibliotheca Dantesca; Current MusicologyHistorians Without Borders: New Studies in Multidisciplinary History (Routledge); and Rethinking Brahms (forthcoming from Oxford University Press).

In addition to her research and activism, Tekla also enjoys translating German and French texts into English, particularly texts about music, philosophy, and critical theory. In everything that she does, she brings an activist-oriented perspective to her projects. A central goal of hers is to show that a disabled independent scholar can make a meaningful contribution to research and social justice.


PhD, Musicology, Cornell University, 2014

Blog Posts


    Current projects include:

    -the study of modality as a signifier of incapacity in 19th-century musical works and theory treatises

    -analyzing the regenerative temporalities enacted in works by Beethoven, Brahms, and Liszt

    -developing a theory of disclosure-oriented pedagogy

    Upcoming Talks and Conferences

    Tekla will be presenting a paper, “Modal Humans and Tonal Gods in Brahms’s Gesang der Parzen,” at the conference Brahms 2022: New Paths, New Perspectives in New Orleans, 9-10 November 2022

    Tekla is also chairing and organizing a panel, “Musical Responses to Goethe’s Works: Texts, Contexts, Genres,” on behalf of the Goethe Society of North America for the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies in St. Louis, 9-11 March 2023


    American Musicological Society

    Society for Disability Studies

    Society for Music Theory

    Modern Language Association

    American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies

    North American Society for the Study of Romanticism

    Goethe Society of North America

    North American Kant Society

    Tekla Babyak

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