Fitt Artist-in-Residence

George E. Lewis to explore improvisation in music, life

February 18, 2011  |  Media Contact: Deborah Baum |  401-863-2476
George E. Lewis - The Lawton Wehle Fitt ’74 Artist-in-Residence will visit campus twice this semester for discussions on improvisation, social transformation, interactivity, technology, and a U.S. première performance.
George E. Lewis The Lawton Wehle Fitt ’74 Artist-in-Residence will visit campus twice this semester for discussions on improvisation, social transformation, interactivity, technology, and a U.S. première performance. Credit: Oskar Henn
Acclaimed composer, performer, and experimental musician George E. Lewis will take part in a series of public events this semester as the Lawton Wehle Fitt ’74 Artist-in-Residence.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University will host a two-part visit by acclaimed composer George E. Lewis under the Lawton Wehle Fitt ’74 Artist-in-Residence program of the Creative Arts Council. During his time at Brown, Lewis will take part in a series of public events, including an interdisciplinary symposium exploring improvisation and the U.S. première of his most recent work, Les Exercices Spirituels, which combines notated music, improvisation, and electronic music. All events are free and open to the public.

Currently the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University, Lewis is a trombone player, composer, and scholar of international achievement and recognition in jazz and experimental music. Considered a pioneer in computer music, Lewis’s work as an improviser and composer includes electronic and computer music, computer-based installations, and notated and improvisative forms, and is documented on more than 130 recordings. His groundbreaking Voyager performance system was developed in the mid-1980s, and was one of the first systems that had the ability to “listen” to a live performer and create a musical response in real-time.

On Friday, Feb. 25, 2011, Lewis will take part in “Improvisation as a Way of Life: A Symposium,” featuring leading scholars in the arts, humanities, and the social and technological sciences. Together, they will explore the ways in which the study of improvisation as an ubiquitous practice of everyday life can lead to new models of intelligibility, agency, ethics, technology, and social transformation. Panels include “Improvisation, Music, and Political Engagement” and “Interactivity and Human Identity.” The symposium will conclude with a keynote address, titled “Improvisation as a Way of Life,” by Lewis and Arnold I. Davidson, a University of Chicago philosopher. The event will be held at the Cogut Center for the Humanities, Pembroke Hall, 172 Meeting St.

Lewis will return to campus to present the U.S. première of his most recent work, Les Exercices Spirituels, on Friday, April 8, 2011. Combining notated music, improvisation, and eight-channel computer music in a work for eight instrumentalists, the work was premièred at the Banlieues Bleues Festival in Le Blanc-Mesnil, France, in March 2010. Here, it will be performed with members of Boston’s Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble and Brown graduate student Kevin Patton. The performance will begin at 8 p.m. in the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, Martinos Auditorium, 154 Angell St.

Lewis’s Fitt residency will also include a seminar on scholarly methodology as it relates to his book, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press, 2008), in which he combined oral history, musicological analysis, social and cultural history as well as aesthetic theory to advance understanding of both American experimental music and African American musical collectives in the 20th century. The seminar will be held Thursday, April 7, 2011, at noon in the Department of Africana Studies.

In addition to the Creative Arts Council, these events are supported by Brown’s Department of Music, Department of Africana Studies, and Cogut Center for the Humanities.

George E. Lewis

George E. Lewis is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University and the director of the Center for Jazz Studies. The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship in 2002, an Alpert Award in the Arts in 1999, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Lewis studied composition with Muhal Richard Abrams at the AACM School of Music and studied trombone with Dean Hey. A member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, Lewis’s oral history is archived in Yale University’s collection of “Major Figures in American Music.”

Lewis’s published articles on music, experimental video, visual art, and cultural studies have appeared in numerous scholarly journals and edited volumes. His 2008 book, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music, received the American Book Award (2009), the American Musicological Society’s Music in American Culture Award (2009), an Award for Excellence in Recorded Sound Research from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (2009), and an award from the Jazz Journalists Association for the Best Book on Jazz (2009).

Editors: Brown University has a fiber link television studio available for domestic and international live and taped interviews, and maintains an ISDN line for radio interviews. For more information, call (401) 863-2476.