Picture: Molly Joyce by Shervin Lainez
Picture: Molly Joyce by Shervin Lainez

Molly Joyce

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On October 28, 2022, Molly Joyce, an artist motivated by and through and because of disability, an artist with “serene power” (The New York Times)—one of the “most versatile, prolific, and intriguing composers working under the vast new-music dome” (The Washington Post)—releases her new work, Perspective, on New Amsterdam Records. At the age of seven, Joyce’s left hand was nearly amputated in a car accident. After two decades of rejecting the label, Joyce now proudly identifies as disabled, using her impaired left hand to play her vintage toy organ—an instrument seemingly custom-built for her impairment—with “superb effect” (The Wire). On Perspective, Joyce moves beyond her own disability to highlight voices of the wider disabled community—both literally and figuratively.

FACTS

1. Disability is one of the largest minorities worldwide (15% of the world’s population, according to 2011 WHO/World Bank Report).

2. Data from a British study by Youth Music and the Take it Away Consortium reveals “disparities for disabled musicians in the industry” (2020).

3. The vintage toy organ is my favorite instrument, and I own three of them.

QUESTIONS

1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?

Anything and everything! More recently the rich world of disability arts, including artists, scholars, and activists active in this world. Additionally, I’m continually inspired by advances in music technology in order to create more accessible and assistive musical instruments and devices.

2. How and when did you get into making music?

I started violin around kindergarten, however shortly after was involved in a car accident that nearly amputated my left hand. Following the accident I transitioned from instruments including cello, trumpet, and was eventually drawn to music composition.

3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?

Hard to only pick 5! Here are my current top 5:

1) Cocteau Twins – Heaven Or Las Vegas
2) John Talabot – Fin
3) Missy Mazzoli/Victoire – Cathedral City
4) Sarah Kirkland Snider – Penelope
5) Tristan Perich – One-Bit Symphony

4. What do you associate with Berlin?

I was very fortunate to have a host stay in Berlin in the Summer of 2012 with artists Birgit Maria Wolf and Bernhard Garrett, so they are always my top association with Berlin.

5. What’s your favourite place in your town?

Bodo’s Bagels in Charlottesville, VA – a great place for anything and everything bagel-related.

6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?

I would be a disability rights lawyer.

7. What was the last record/music you bought?

Beyonce – Renaissance!

8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?

Laurie Anderson! I’ve continually admired her work, especially as it seems uncategorizable and her concepts are always very strong. I would love to see what would happen through a collaboration.

9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?

Probably performing this past Summer at Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, CA. The show had great technical support including sound and lighting, and felt like a culmination of my songs/performance practice over these past few years, as well as experimenting with new technology such as a music glove.

10. How important is technology to your creative process?

Technology is critical to my process. More specifically, I use software for notating and processing music, and am looking at expanding to more interactive hardware for performing with my impaired left hand.

11. Please tell us more about your upcoming album “Perspective”?

The album features disabled interviewees responding to what access, care, interdependence, and more means to them. The album features their voices aurally with my musical underscoring, and is accompanied by open-caption videos highlighting their responses visually as well. More information is available at: mollyjoyce.bandcamp.com

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