A conversation about Music and Autism: Speaking for Ourselves — Bakan & Aigen

Τεύχος 14 (1) 2022 – Interview (first published on 23 September 2020)

Full text [PDF]

A conversation about Music and Autism: Speaking for

Michael B. Bakan & Kenneth Aigen


In this conversation, music therapist Kenneth Aigen interviews ethnomusicologist Michael Bakan on the subject of Bakan’s recent book, Music and Autism: Speaking for Ourselves. Numerous topics and issues are addressed, from autistic self-advocacy and neurodiversity to comparative considerations of music therapy-based vs. ethnomusicological approaches to engaging with autistic people through music. In the course of the dialogue, Bakan chronicles the various stages of his work in this area, from the Music-Play Project, to the Artism Ensemble, to the “Speaking for Ourselves” book project. Unifying all of this work has been a consistent emphasis on endeavouring to understand people on their own terms—as experts at being who they are—rather than on trying to change people through therapeutic interventions. This perspective is ultimately revealed as both a fundamental distinction and a powerful point of convergence between ethnomusicological and music therapy-centred approaches.


Michael Bakan is professor of ethnomusicology in the College of Music at Florida State University. He is the author of the books Music and Autism: Speaking for Ourselves, World Music: Traditions and Transformations, and Music of Death and New Creation: Experiences in the World of Balinese Gamelan Beleganjur, and is the series editor of the Routledge Focus on World Music book series. [mbakan@fsu.edu]. Kenneth Aigen is associate professor and director of music therapy in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University. His books include Paths of Development in Music Therapy, Music-Centered Music Therapy, and The Study of Music Therapy: Current Issues and Concepts. He is a past president of the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) and has been a recipient of the AMTA Research and Publications Award [ken.aigen@nyu.edu]