Writing In Catastrophic Times, the philosopher Isabelle Stengers describes what she names "the felt necessity of trying to listen to that which insists, obscurely" in our world. Around climate change, political and social upheaval, displaced populations and globalization, Stengers notes the emergence of a global human imperative to attend to our fractured world by enacting a version of what has been called the "auditory turn," by learning to listen carefully, critically and creatively. This seminar will survey recent key developments in sound studies and the cultural theory of audition, ranging from phenomenologies of audience to material histories of sound. We will concentrate in particular on the ways in which various artistic and cultural practices of improvisation inform and enact close listening: our core text will be The Improvisation Studies Reader: Spontaneous Acts (2014), edited by Ajay Heble and Rebecca Caines. We will also read the collaborative-authored The Fierce Urgency of Now: Improvisation, Rights, and the Ethics of Co-Creation by Daniel Fischlin, Ajay Heble and George Lipsitz. How do improvisatory interactions and collaborations inflect the social, cultural and political forms of the contemporary world? How does improvisation enable critical concern with inter-subjectivities, with social justice, or with human pluralities? How does improvisation refocus or intensify our attentive, critical address to the temporal, to the spatial and to the performative and the expressive? In addition to a set of collaborative case-studies of intermedia improvisors (Nathaniel Mackey, Pierre Hebert, Pauline Oliveros and Les Diaboliques), students will be invited to develop their own practice-based research projects. This is an interdisciplinary seminar, and will focus on the ways in which media (radio, video, LP, book, . . . ) intersect with and inform each other. Our aim will be to pursue the specific ways in which contemporary sound--the various temporalities and textures of performed audio in a variety of genres and idioms--impacts on and is also impacted by the verbal or textual arts.
At each seminar meeting, we will also engage in collective improvisation in the classroom, to start to think critically and rigorously about collaborative and practice-based research.
Core Print Texts
Daniel Fischlin, Ajay Heble and George Lipsitz, The Fierce Urgency of Now: Improvisation, Rights and the Ethics of Cocreation (Duke UP, 2013)
Ajay Heble and Rebecca Caines, eds. The Improvisation Studies Reader: Spontaneous Acts (Routledge, 2015)
Nathaniel Mackey, Bass Cathedral (New Directions, 2008)
A final paper (or practiced-based research project) of approximately 4500 words (14-16 typed, double-spaced pages) -- 50% Click here for a topic sheet for the project.
An individual seminar presentation, with written report, and a collaborative seminar presentation, with collaboratively written report -- 40% Click here for a description of the seminar format.
A listening / response journal, ten entries -- 10% This may be completed as a physical document or as a series of blog entries. I will also set up a discussion group for the class, where blog entries (or links) can be (re)posted. These responses should be made available to the seminar, preferably as reactions to the previous day's discussions.
Links are still being updated. (Please note that I can't necessarily endorse the contents of any linked sites. They're here for background information.)
All seminars take place on Fridays from 9:00am to 12:00pm in BuTo 597 (the graduate seminar room).
Individual Seminar Presentations (two presenters):
Click here for a description of the seminar format.
I think, since there are no presentations this week, that I'd like to divide our three hours into three sections: first, using Lipsitz et al. to read the video by Claudia Rankine and John Lucas, from Citizen (I'll distribute the necessary text: it will be as if I'm giving a [brief, sample] presentation on Rankine, read via Lipsitz); second, a discussion of Jean-Luc Nancy's philosophy of listening; third, a discussion of Ingrid Monson as expert listener, and her use of "saying" as a trope for improvisation.
Please read "Prologue: Spontaneous Acts" by Caines and Heble, and the essays by Lipsitz, Nancy, and Monson from Spontaneous Acts.
Please read "Prelude: 'The Fierce Urgency of Now'" by Fischlin, Heble and Lipsitz, from The Fierce Urgency of Now.
As a video example of a hybrid improvised/composed work, which I will be discussing in my own presentation in the seminar, please watch "Situation 5" by Claudia Rankine and John Lucas (from Citizen: An American Lyric), embedded below. Note how the dates on the video and in the published script are different: the temporalities here are in tension.
Click here for Ajay Heble's homepage at the University of Guelph.
Click here for a video of Ajay Heble's TEDx talk on "Improvisation as a Model for Social Change."
Click here for Ajay Heble's talk at McMaster University on Jan 31, 2013, entitled "Class Action: Human Rights, Critical Activism, and Community-Engaged Learning."
Click here for George Lipsitz's homepage at the UC Santa Barbara site.
Click here for a curriculum vitae for George Lipsitz.
Click here for a video of George Lipsitz talking at the LA Xicano Symposium in 2011.
Click here for a pdf of "Diasporic Noise: History, Hip Hop, and the Post-colonial Politics of Sound" by George Lipstiz (chapter 2 of Dangerous Crossroads).
Click here for a Conversation with George Lipsitz (2002).
Click here for "The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: Racialized Social Democracy and the 'White" Problem in American Studies" by George Lipsitz.
Click here to view Claire Denis / Vers Nancy (2002), in which Jean-Luc Nancy is interviewed around the subject of foreignness and race.
Click here for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Jean-Luc Nancy.
Click here for Interview With Jean-Luc Nancy: "There Is No West Anymore" (from July 2016).
Click here for what's likely an illegal pdf of Nancy's book Listening, from which the excerpt in the anthology is taken.
Click here for "Jean-Luc Nancy and the Listening Subject" (2012) by Brian Kane.
Click here for Ingrid Monson's faculty page at Harvard University.
Click here for "Doubleness and Jazz Improvisation: Irony, Parody, and Ethnomusicology" by Ingrid Monson (1994).
Situation 5, by John Lucas and Claudia Rankine. The script is published in Citizen: An American Lyric, pp. 88-90.
George Lipsitz at University of Wyoming: Expressive Culture in a World of Crisis
Click here to read "Improvised Music after 1950: Afrological and Eurological Perspectives" by George Lewis.
Click here for "I improvise, therefor I am," an interview with Arnold Davidson and George Lewis.
Click here for "George E. Lewis -- The Story's Being Told," a 2010 interview with Trevor Hunter.
Click here for "In Conversation with George Lewis" by Ted Panken.
Click here for Arnold I. Davidson's academic homepage. (Follow the links.)
Click here for "A Conversation with Arnold Davidson." (Scroll down for, among other things, a brief description of a seminar Davidson co-led with George Lewis on improvisation and philosophy.)
Click here for a video of George Lewis's University Lecture at Columbia University in March, 2011: "Improvisation as a Way of Life: Reflections on Human Interaction."
Click here for a description of a colloquium led by George Lewis in April, 2014, at the University of Virginia: "Why do we want our computers to improvise?"
Click here for "Critical Responses to 'Theorizing Improvisation (Musically)'" by George E. Lewis (June 2013); Lewis has done much in the last few years to gather, synthesize and critique theoretical writing around improvisation.
Click here for a recording of conversation by Roscoe Mitchell, Muhal Richard Abrams and George Lewis around an oral history of improvisation and the AACM.
Click here for "The Condition of Improvisation," George Lewis's keynote address delivered at the University of California Santa Cruz in December 2009.
Virginia is going to present on bluegrass and improvisation. She has asked us to listen to "Leather Breeches" by Boyd Asher (from Alan Lomax's collections), and to watch the three YouTube videos below.
Here are a few supplementary videos I'd suggest as well: