"New Music, New Subjects: The Situation of a Creole"
George E. Lewis, Columbia University
Sir Donald Francis Tovey’s 1949 essay “The Main Stream of Music” posited an end to the history of music. “At the present day,” Tovey lamented, “all musicians feel more or less at sea,” foreshadowing theorist Leonard Meyer’s 1967 notion of “fluctuating stasis,” an absence of stable canon that Tovey, at least, evidently hoped would be a temporary condition. However, by 2004, experimentalist Alvin Curran’s buoyant 1994 prediction of a New Common Practice “freed of all rules, stylistic conventions, codes, and even ethics” appeared to musicologist Benjamin Piekut in 2004 to amount to no common practice whatsoever--and this is to say nothing of the vast changes in both musical practices and audiences occasioned by immigration, the World Wide Web, and globalization. Now that we’ve been in the new century for a while, we can see that Sir Donald’s eschatological interregnum has been actually rather welcome to many--though by no means all. But will the metaphor of limbo suffice, or have some more purposive tropes or features appeared that already mark the musical condition of the new century’s musical experimentalism?
Room 130, 80 Queen’s Park
Lecture will be followed by a casual reception.
George Lewis, Professor of American Music at Columbia University, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. His other honors include a MacArthur Fellowship (2002) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015). A member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, Lewis is the author of A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (2008), and co-editor of the two-volume Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies (2016). His creative work is documented on more than 150 recordings, as presented by the London Philharmonia Orchestra, Mivos Quartet, Ensemble Dal Niente, Spektral Quartet, Talea Ensemble, International Contemporary Ensemble, and others. His opera Afterword (2015) was most recently performed at the Ojai Festival, with additional performances in the USA, Europe, and the UK. George Lewis holds honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Edinburgh and New College of Florida.