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Improvising Tomorrow's Bodies: The Politics of Transduction

BIO

George E. Lewis serves as the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University, and the Director of the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia. 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 trombone with Dean Hey. A member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, 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 120 recordings. His published articles on music, experimental video, visual art, and cultural studies have appeared in numerous scholarly journals and edited volumes, and his book, Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music, is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press in Fall 2007.

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ABSTRACT

The computer has become an indispensable part of the cultural and social histories of the arts, in which improvisation has long served as a site for interdisciplinary exploration, exchanges of personal and cultural narratives, and the blurring of boundaries between art forms. The ever-expanding roles played by interactive digital systems in globalized cultural, social, and economic environments are now being complemented by a similarly wide-ranging re-conceptualization of how improvisation produces knowledge and meaning. Because both improvisation and computing serve as important sites for interdisciplinary exploration in the arts, humanities, and sciences, a twinned theorizing of improvisation and interactivity will help to illuminate the inevitable differences that fragment and rupture even the most fluid and flexible notions of sociality, agency, history, and power. Part memoir, part history and criticism, this essay explores, among other topics, the contention that political debates about the nature and function of music and bodies inevitably become embedded in the structure of software.

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