George E. Lewis's AMS Plenary Lecture

George E. Lewis

The AMS President’s Endowed Plenary Lecture will be delivered at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday 12 November, immediately preceding the traditional opening reception. George E. Lewis will present the lecture “Putting Scholarship into (Art) Practice: Four Cases.” Lewis describes it as follows:
“This talk troubles the bright line separating creative work from academic research, through an examination of four cases from my own work as a composer and interactive artist. The works themselves are diverse in content and affect, and range from computer music performance and interactive installations to opera. Each of these works, however, was developed through a combination of ethnographic method, historical and archival work, analysis of musical practice, and critical examination. The results are serving in turn as the impetus for my musicological writing—on the works themselves, on histories of larger networks of musical practice that these works draw upon, and on still larger socio-technological networks and practices that all of us encounter every day. Thus, the talk affirms the fact that the world continues to draw critically important lessons from music—often cryptically, and despite an ongoing and deleterious trope that portrays music as peripheral to American intellectual life. In staunch opposition to this trope, musicologist Jann Pasler has proposed that ‘music can serve as a critical tool, activating and developing multiple layers of awareness . . . I invite the reader to listen for music’s resonance in the world and, through music, to help us imagine our future.’ My talk makes common cause with Professor Pasler’s view, echoing philosopher Pierre Hadot’s understanding that ‘in philosophy, we are not dealing with the mere creation of a work of art: the goal is rather to transform ourselves.’”

George E. Lewis is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Lewis has received a Mac­Arthur Fellowship (2002), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015), a United States Artists Walker Fellowship (2011), an Alpert Award in the Arts (1999), and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Lewis has been a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, and his widely acclaimed 2008 book, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press) received the American Book Award and the American Musicological Society’s first Music in American Culture Award. His oral history is archived in Yale University’s collection of “Major Figures in American Music,” and he has recently served as Ernest Bloch Visiting Professor, University of California, Berkeley, and Resident Scholar, Center for Disciplinary Innovation, University of Chicago. Lewis’s work as composer, improvisor, performer, and interpreter explores electronic and computer music, computer-based multimedia installations, text-sound works, and notated and improvisative forms, and is documented on more than 140 recordings, performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonia Orchestra, Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart, International Contemporary Ensemble, and shown at the Cité des Sciences et des Industries La Villette, Contemporary Art Museum Houston, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the 2010 Vancouver Cultural Olympiad. Lewis and Benjamin Piekut are co-editors of the forthcoming two-volume Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies (2016). In 2015, Lewis received the degree of Doctor of Music (honoris causa) from the University of Edinburgh.


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