NOTE: The third annual President’s Endowed Plenary Lecture at the Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society will be delivered at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, 12 November 2015, in Lexington, Kentucy, at the Galt House Hotel (140 North Fourth Street). The public is invited.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.
George E. Lewis has titled his remarks “Putting Scholarship into (Art) Practice: Four Cases.” He writes as follows:
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.”
Lewis recently gave the Ernest Bloch Lectures at the University of California, Berkeley, and was Resident Scholar at the Center for Disciplinary Innovation, University of Chicago. His work as composer, improviser, performer, and interpreter explores electronic and computer music, computer-based multimedia installations, text-sound works, and notated and improvisatory 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 (Paris), 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 was presented the degree of Doctor of Music honoris causa by the University of Edinburgh.