For too long, classical music has occupied an unspoken white space, seemingly hostile to voices from outside its European origins. So how do we decolonize classical music?
George E. Lewis, Edwin H. Case Professor of Music at Columbia University, has some ideas.
The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music will host Lewis’ residency the first week of November 2022. Lewis’ Residency includes a talk at 4pm Reuss Hall 314 on Thursday 3rd November and a concert at Schoenberg Hall on Saturday 5th November at 8pm. Both events promise ideas and action on Lewis’ proposals to break the status quo.
A composer, musicologist, and recipient of MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships, Lewis has spent a life pushing creative boundaries. He was recently appointed artistic director of the prestigious International Contemporary Ensemble, a major new music organization based in New York City.
UCLA musicology professor Nina Eitzheim said, “George is exactly why I entered academia.” I met him through a workshop he offered, and it was the first time I met an artist and scholar who stayed in the US to pursue my PhD with him at UCSD.”
Lewis’ work as a musician and composer began on the South Side of Chicago, joining the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in 1971 at age 19. black music.As Lewis himself states in his book A Force Stronger Than Itself: AACM and American Experimental MusicThe organization retained a black working-class perspective while embracing radical alternatives to mainstream Chicago jazz and blues.
The resulting avant-garde music was difficult to categorize. As Lewis comments, the cultural drive to label black music as “improvised” and white classical music as “experimental” fails to capture the essence of either, and is steeped in history and prejudice. It was doubly bound from the start by ingrained racial and class perceptions.
In Lewis’ November 3 discussion, “Ideals of New Music and Alien Sounds,” African-American composer Ollie Wilson posed the exact question of making music (any music) “art” rather than “entertainment.” Why and what, if anything, defined the aesthetic of black music. Wilson identified a common conceptual approach in Aphrodiasporic music production. Lewis takes Wilson’s thread to identify the aesthetic directions found in post-1960 Aphrodiaspora classical music.
“When you think about black music traditions, the emphasis is on creating a unique sound. No one wants to sound like someone else,” says UCLA’s African-American Studies Division. chairman and professor of ethnomusicology and global jazz studies, Cheryl Keyes. “George’s own music is testament to his immense creativity and avant-garde style.”
Lewis’s own music can be difficult to categorize. He has written a wide range of experimental music. He started using computers in his music in the 1970s. In the 1980s he began developing non-hierarchical, interactive musical environments. VoyagerA computer program creates a dialogue between an improviser and a computer-generated “improvisational orchestra” that analyzes and reacts to the improviser in real time.
As Lewis recently opined, an important step in the decolonization of classical music is to encourage ensembles to commission new music from a variety of composers. A new musical ensemble dedicated to the avant-garde, Bent His Frequentie duo will perform in concert at Schoenberg Hall on 5 November, featuring a new commissioned work by Lewis, African-American composer Alvin Singleton and Singaporean composer Emily Coe. will feature
“The Bent Frequency Duo has commissioned more than 40 new musical works in the last nine years, from UCLA. We have aimed to use it as a catalyst for social change, and in 2018 we decided to clarify what we have been doing for years.”
Bent Frequency Duo dubbed the 2018-19 season ‘Amplify’, dedicated to performing music composed by women, people of color, and other composers historically underrepresented in classical music. did. The season’s success led to an ongoing theme. “Re-Amplify” for the 2019-20 season was followed by “Sustain” for 2020-21 and “Renew” for 2021-22. Baker and Garber built each season on the promise that more than 80% of his programming would be devoted to the decolonization of classical music.
In 2022, Bent Frequency will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Its new season ‘Resonance’ strengthens the connection between the ensemble and the audience. Its goal is to amplify the deeper meaning that music holds for each of us, and to highlight important artistic voices that resonate and resonate with our communities.
This is a goal Lewis shares, and his International Contemporary Ensemble is also celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
“You and I understand contemporary music not as a globalized pan-European white sonic diaspora, but more like the blues, a new, reborn music practiced by different people in different variations around the world. We have to invent a new “we”. said Lewis. “If this new ‘us’ can embrace ‘our’ future, even in its turmoil, it can reaffirm our common humanity in pursuing the decolonization of new music. increase.”