DEBUT ALBUM – Megan Steinberg: ami études

Composer Megan Steinberg is releasing her debut album: ami études for Accessible Musical Instruments with Morwenna Louttit-Vertaat (Rainbow Harp), Steve Varden (Synths) and Kris Halpin (MiMU Gloves) plus more Disabled, d/Deaf and neurodivergent artists to be announced.

The release is scheduled for mid-2024 and the producer is Alex Armstrong-Holding. The album is supported by: PRS Foundation, Help Musicians and Arts & Humanities Research Council.

ami etudes collage of 3 performer headshotsami études is an opportunity to showcase new, groundbreaking instruments that have been designed, built, used or repurposed by artists to be playable taking their disabilities or neurodivergences into account. AMIs (Accessible Musical Instruments) are incredible in their diversity and ingenuity, and by composing, recording and releasing this album we hope to share their potential. Our mission is to promote incredible professional, disabled and neurodivergent musicians and encourage other musicians to work with them.

An ‘étude’ [French: ‘study’] was historically composed to teach the unique capabilities of an instrument to its students. They are usually short and sweet, exploring a different aspect of the instrument in depth and detail.

Megan is working closely with Drake Music to complete the album, who are key advocates for the design, development and distribution of AMIs.


Composer: Megan Steinberg
Megan Steinberg is an experimental composer and turntablist. She works with found sound, chance procedures, graphic & text scores, quietness and microtonality.

Megan is studying a PhD at Royal Northern College of Music, where she is the Lucy Hale Doctoral Composer in Association with Drake Music. Her project is focused on the creation of works for Disabled musicians, new instruments and AI.

She has composed for incredible performers including Riot Ensemble, Kathryn Williams, Heather Roche, Juice Vocal Ensemble, Distractfold, Apartment House and Lore Lixenberg. In 2016, she was awarded the FI Williams Prize for Composition. In 2017, she was Composer in Residence at the Royal Holloway Picture Gallery. In 2022, she was an Artist in Residence at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival with the Australian Art Orchestra. She is currently Composer in Residence with CoMA London. Her music has been performed at Kings Place, IKLECTIK, Grachtenfestival in Amsterdam, and Arts by the Sea Festival in Bournemouth. She has upcoming performances in Los Angeles and New York.

Megan lives with bipolar disorder, body dysmorphic disorder and Hashimoto’s disease, amongst multiple other long-term health conditions.

Morwenna in feathered fedora outside in a field playing rainbow harp

Artist: Morwenna Louttit-Vertaat

Morwenna Louttit-Vermaat overcame her dyslexia to learn the harp, using her own methods of coloured sheet music and sticking coloured dots on the soundboard. She has become an accomplished harper, has recorded 2 of her own albums and been a session musician for others.  She gave a talk at the World Harp Congress 2022 on making learning the harp more accessible.

A combination of her experience both learning the harp with dyslexia and teaching it to a wide variety of students led her to develop the Rainbow Harp.

Morwenna has been featured in, amongst others, Harp ColumnMetro and Yahoo News, and together with her husband Creag runs Hands on Harps.

Steve at a table playing synthesizers

Artist: Steve Varden

I am Steve Varden and I guess I mainly play a mix of traditional percussion and electronic music, but I am also a passionate improvising musician across many genres. I play percussion and electronic instruments in a multi-genre big band and more electronic instruments and effect units in a couple of improvising collectives.

I’m also a live performance DJ who mixes many different styles and genres at festivals and on the dance floor. In Paraorchestra I mainly twiddle with electronics, loop loops and generate effects that come from inner and other worlds. I am known for my electronic plips and plops, but also for my heartfelt theremin solos and for dropping beats where others would not dare to do so. I am increasingly becoming bonded to my growing collection of synthesisers and all of the wonderful soundscapes they can offer me as a creative musician.

As a one-handed and often one-fingered musician I am often frustrated by the double button presses that are required to access all of the features on electronic instruments. However, I have devised and designed several low tech adaptive equipment solutions to combat these difficulties by using things like strong magnets and 3D printed components. I rarely play exactly the same thing twice as I want my music and playing to remain fresh and exciting in my own compositions. I am always searching for new sounds, shapes, rhythms and beats. It’s a bit like prospecting for gold as it takes a lot of time and effort, but when you hit the good stuff, it’s party on.

Transcript from Steve Varden on BBC 6 Music – “To mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Mary Anne Hobbs invited Victoria Oruwari, Hattie McCall Davies and Steve Varden on to her BBC Radio 6 Music show to share their experiences of making music and the creation of #TheUnfolding with Hannah Peel. Watch the video.

Kris headshot concentrating holding arms up with MiMU gloves on

Artist: Kris Halpin

I’m Kris Halpin; Dyskinetic is the name of this strange project I can call a career. A Venn diagram of a one-man-band, a tech experiment, art project and Disability inclusion strategy – I’m in the middle there.

I’m mostly known for playing the MiMu Gloves, a groundbreaking wearable instrument devised by Grammy Award winning musical genius Imogen Heap. With the support of Drake Music I repurposed this wearable tech to create the context for the world’s first Social Model musical instrument; an instrument that learns and shapes around my physical barriers. I can’t shape my hand impairments to play the music I imagine on traditional instruments; but with the gloves, even my impaired, dyskinetic hand movements could be meaningful musical choices. 

I’ve taken this work all over the world, performing across Europe, in the US and in Japan. This project has acted as a catalyst for change, amplifying the conversation around music, technology and Disability. Crucially, this conversation has challenged perceptions of what Disabled musicians are capable of.

Working in spaces more aligned with education, science & technology than the music industry, I’ve enjoyed an unlikely but incredibly rewarding career so far. I didn’t come here to challenge stereotypes or push boundaries; I had only the simple ambition to share my songs with the world. Disabling barriers continue to make those traditional routes into the music industry inaccessible to me, but have taken me on a magical side quest of radical musical inclusion. 
Listen to Kris Halpin’s latest single, McCartney IV


In addition, there is an open call for 1 more AMI performer to take part in the album and work with Megan to create a new piece. Album artwork will be commissioned from a disabled, Deaf and/or neurodivergent artist.

We are incredibly grateful to the PRS Foundation Open Fund for Music Creators and Help Musicians for their support.

We also would like to thank AHRC for their continued support and Drake Music for their ongoing collaboration with Megan and RNCM PRiSM.