Jessica Allison Holmes

Jessica Allison Holmes

Tenure Track Assistant Professor

Topics & Fields of Interdisciplinary Expertise 

  • Representation of disability and gender in contemporary pop music, with emphasis on vocality, embodiment, and identity formation
  • Ontologies of sound and sensory disability
  • Musical aesthetics of mental health and cultures of mood-regulation
  • Musical personae, celebrity, fandom, and reception
  • Popular music studies, voice studies, sound studies, feminist media studies
  • Disability studies, deaf studies, mad studies, critical publich health studies

Prior Academic Appointments & Education 

  • Departmental Lecturer of Musicology, UCLA (2020-2021)
  • Postdoctoral Scholar of Musicology, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) (2017-2020)
  • Ph.D. Musicology, McGill University (2011-2017)
  • M.A. Musicology, Western University (2008-2010)
  • B. Mus (Hons. music history and cello), Western University, (2004-2008)


Jessica A. Holmes is Assistant Professor of Musicology in the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen where she teaches courses in popular music studies and musicology, and serves as founding leader of the UCPH "Art & Health" interdisciplinary research cluster. From 2020-21, she served as Departmental Lecturer of Musicology in the Herb Alpert School of Music at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), having previously held the position of inaugural Postdoctoral Fellow of Musicology at UCLA from 2017-2020, for which she received the 2019 UCLA Chancellor’s Award for Postdoctoral Research, the highest university-wide distinction for Postdoctoral Fellows from across the sciences and humanities. Jessica holds a Ph.D. in Musicology from McGill University, where she was a 2012-15 Fellow of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, Canada’s most competitive federally-funded scholarship for doctoral students.

Research Overview

Jessica’s scholarship analyzes the representation of disability in contemporary western popular music, with emphasis on vocality, embodiment, and identity formation. Approaching disability through an intersectional framework, her work sheds light on how music participates in the socio-cultural construction of disability through the lived experiences, creative endeavours, and reception of musicians from across the diverse socio-cultural and physiological spectrum of disability. This scholarly agenda culminates in two overlapping areas of expertise: (1) ontologies of sound and sensory disability, and (2) the aesthetics of disability, madness, and gender in contemporary pop music. 

Jessica's peer-reviewed articles appear in the Journal of the American Musicological Society, the Journal of the Society for American Music, the Journal of Popular Music Studies, and the Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies. She has presented her work at the annual meetings of the American Musciological Society, the Society for American Music, and the Society for Disability Studies. 

Book Project #1: Music at the Margins of Sense 

Under contract with the University of Michigan Press for its Music & Social Justice series, Jessica's first book, Music at the Margins of Sense, engages with the creative endeavours of musicians from across the diverse audiological and socio-cultural spectrum of deafness to challenge the primacy of hearing in Western music discourse and the misconception that deafness is antithetical to musical experience. The book examines the form and function of what it calls “the figure of deafness,” an implicitly white hearing trope invoked to hypothesize about the extremes of sensory experience as they are imagined to coalesce around total auditory silence and heightened tactile sensation. In its place, the book offers a multisensory, multimodal account of musicianship rooted in bodily autonomy, perceptual agency, and creative self-determination – that is, expert listening – contesting the biological certainties of “normal" hearing, while expanding ontological definitions of music.   

Book Project #2: The Musical Vernacular of Depression

Under review for contract, Jessica's second book, The Musical Vernacular of Depression examines the aestheticization of depression in contemporary pop music as reflective of a global increase in clinical depression and its related gendered and racial disparities, the enduring cultural feminization of depression, and new cultural awareness around mental health. The book frames depression as both a biomedical diagnosis of a serious and common mood disorder in accordance with its prevailing clinical definitions, and as a generational sensibility unbounded by diagnosis and pathology. By drawing attention to the semantic practices, stylistic conventions, and affective cultures that have explicitly formed around depression in pop music, the book argues that pop transforms the ways young people conceive of, communicate about, and tend to their mental health, situating pop music as a medically unregulated site of public mental health discourse in the process.

Teaching & Supervision

A seasoned instructor of record at the undergraduate and graduate levels, Jessica has an interdisciplinary teaching profile that spans introductory survey courses on the History of American Rock & Pop and the History of Western Art Music; issues and methods courses in Popular Music Studies and Historical Musicology; and special topics seminars in Sound Studies, Voice Studies, and Disability Studies. She has also supervised MA and BA theses on a range of topics related to pop music and identity. Jessica was a 2021 nominee for UCLA's university-wide Distinguished Teaching Award, and received the McGill Schulich School of Music’s Outstanding Teaching Award in 2017. 

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