Presenter Abstracts & Bios

The Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium features panel discussions, performances, multi-media presentations, interviews, and workshops to foster a spirit of collaborative, boundary-defying inquiry and dialogue. This year, the Colloquium participants will riff on the interplay among words, music, sound, and song.

Still from Sweet Willie Rollbar's Orientation.

Keynote Address: Brent Hayes Edwards

For his keynote for the 2018 Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium, Brent Hayes Edwards will present his digital restoration, from the original 16mm reels, of the legendary short film Sweet Willie Rollbar’s Orientation. Featuring an original soundtrack by saxophonist Julius Hemphill, the film was made in the spring of 1972 by Hemphill, the poet K. Curtis Lyle, the actor Malinke Elliott, and other members of the Black Artists’ Group of St. Louis. An astonishing document of the post-Black Arts period, the film includes a series of fragmented, surreal “trickster tale” vignettes set in the detritus of the St. Louis inner city. In his keynote directly following the screening, Edwards will place the film in the context of the Black Artists’ Group, and more broadly in relation to other black experiments in multimedia aesthetics in the early 1970s. 

Brent Hayes Edwards is Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature and the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University. His books include Epistrophies: Jazz and the Literary Imagination (Harvard University Press, 2017), The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism (Harvard University Press, 2003), the co-edited collection Uptown Conversation: The New Jazz Studies (Columbia University Press, 2004), and scholarly editions of classic works by W. E. B. Du Bois, Frederick Douglass, Joseph Conrad, and Claude McKay. His most recent publication is the translation of Michel Leiris’s Phantom Africa (Seagull Books, 2017), for which he was awarded a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant. He was a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow. 

Vilde Aaslid

With Urgent Words: Political Poetry and Jazz in 2018

Vilde Aaslid

At times of political urgency, jazz musicians have often turned to spoken word to help deliver their messages. Recent turmoil has brought with it a marked increase in jazz that includes spoken components. Critical responses often connect these pieces with those of the 1960s, but the recent compositions work on their audiences in registers specific to now. In this paper, I look in detail at two combinations of poetry and music from the last few years to ask: how, specifically, do they do their political work? In Flesh & Bone Mike Reed responds artistically to his terrifying encounter with a neo-Nazi rally. His dizzying suite with poetry from Marvin Tate demands self-reflection from the audience. Samora Pinderhughes appeals to his listers’ hearts in Transformations Suite, aiming to move their bodies into action in a stirring appeal for racial justice. Both of these works reflect shifts in genre politics, and although we can see them within a black radical tradition of combining music and word in political art, their musicopoetics are entirely of now.

Vilde Aaslid is an assistant professor of music at the University of Rhode Island. Aaslid is an interdisciplinary music scholar with primary research interests in text and improvisation. Her current book project examines the cultural and aesthetic interrelation of improvised music and poetry, building on her dissertation on jazz poetry intersection.

Dionne Brand

Dionne Brand is a renowned poet, novelist, and essayist. Her writing is notable for the beauty of its language, and for its intense engagement with issues of social justice. Her work includes nine volumes of poetry, five books of fiction and two non-fiction works. She was the Poet Laureate of the City of Toronto from 2009-2012. For her contribution to literature in Canada she received the honor of being made a Member of the Order of Canada. 
Dionne Brand has published nineteen books, contributed to many anthologies and written dozens of essays and articles. Her forthcoming works (2018) include The Blue Clerk, Ars Poetica (a work of essay and poetry) and Theory (a novel). In 2017 Brand was made a Member of the Order of Canada. She lives in Toronto and is a Professor in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph. 

Lawrence Hill

Lawrence Hill became a professor of creative writing in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph in 2016, but has been an avid teacher and mentor for more than twenty years. Lawrence is committed to introducing students to practical details about the business of writing and publishing, and to creating opportunities for students to meet other writers and publishing professionals.

Lawrence Hill is the author of ten books, including The Illegal and The Book of Negroes, winner of various awards including The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, CBC Radio’s Canada Reads, and the NAACP Image Award. Lawrence delivered the 2013 Massey Lectures, based on his non-fiction book Blood: The Stuff of Life. In 2016, Lawrence served as chair of the jury of the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize, and in 2017 he won the Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize for the Arts.

Lawrence has a B.A. in economics from Laval University and an M.A. in writing from Johns Hopkins University. He is an honorary patron of Crossroads International, with which he has served as a volunteer for 35 years, including overseas placements in Niger, Cameroun, Mali and Swaziland. As a volunteer with Book Clubs for Inmates, he also visits with members of book clubs in Canadian penitentiaries. For years, he has been a volunteer and supporter of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society in Birchtown, Nova Scotia. Lawrence lives with his family in Hamilton, ON and in Woody Point, NL. For more information, visit his website and Facebook page

Lawrence Hill will be a guest at the inaugural Emerging Scholars breakfast, held this year as part of the Colloquium. The Emerging Scholars program offers up to 10 individuals (from all levels of study) an opportunity to participate in the Colloquium and engage with participants. For more information on the Emerging Scholars Program, please visit the online application form.

Meta DeUwa Jones

Abstract and bio forthcoming.

Kevin McNeilly

Kevin McNeilly

Kevin McNeilly teaches Cultural Studies and Contemporary Literatures in English at the University of British Columbia. He was the UBC site manager as well as the coordinator for the Text and Media research group for the Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice research project, and is the Site Coordinator for the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation at the University of British Columbia. His research focuses on the intersections of improvised music and poetry, on media aesthetics, and on concepts and practices of listening. He has published articles on the music of Charles Mingus, John Zorn, and Steve Lacy, on television programs including  The Wire, Battlestar Galactica  and  Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and on the work of a wide variety of contemporary poets, from Anne Carson to Robert Creeley. His book of poems,  Embouchure, was published by Nightwood Editions in 2011. He maintains two blogs:  Frank Styles, which concentrates on poetry and music, and  Flow, Fissure, Mesh, which concerns improvisation, media and pedagogy. His website features audio, video, poetry and more.

Winston Smith

Winston Smith teaches in the Liberal Arts Transfer Program at Seneca College. In addition to core courses, including Academic Research and Writing, and World Literature, he teaches electives for English & Liberal Studies on blues, jazz, and identity politics. Before Seneca, he taught African American Literature as a sessional professor in the Humanities Department at York University, co-owned the literary bookstore Writers & Co., and hosted “Expandable Language,” a jazz program on CKLN Radio.

Sara Villa

Sara Villa is a Professor of English Literature at John Abbott College; previously she was an ICASP Postdoctoral fellow at CREUM Université de Montreal with a research project focused on the influence of jazz improvisatory practices on the Beat Generation poetics. In 2008-2010 she was a research fellow in a joint program between Columbia University’s Center for Jazz Studies and the University of Milan, where she received her PhD in 2008. She is the translator into Italian of Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954. She has published articles on Virginia Woolf, Anglo-American Cinema and Jack Kerouac. Her monographic volume dedicated to the film adaptation of Woolf’s Orlando (I due Orlando: Le poetiche androgine del romanzo woolfiano e dell’adattamento cinematografico) is published by CUEM, Milan.  

Rob Wallace

Writer, musician, and teacher Rob Wallace holds a PhD in English Literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara. His research focuses on poetry, improvisation, popular and “world” musics, and the intersections between literature and music. Along with teaching literature, music, and writing, Wallace is an active percussionist in a number of genres ranging from Hindustani classical music to free improvisation. He has performed and/or recorded with many artists including Pt. Hom Nath Upadhyaya, Colter Frazier, Yungchen Lhamo, Vinny Golia, Jeff Kaiser, Jim Connolly, Robin Eubanks, Hal Onserud, Matana Roberts, Getatchew Mekuriya, Andrew Raffo Dewar, Hamid Drake, Tracy McMullen, Ajay Heble, Daniel Fischlin, Lewis Melville, Jesse Stewart, Joe Sorbara, Kyle Brenders, Jane Bunnett, Larry Cramer, and Frank Rosaly. His recordings can be found on the pfMENTUM and Ambiances Magnétiques record labels. He is the author of Improvisation and the Making of American Literary Modernism (Continuum). Rob was a postdoctoral fellow with the ICASP project from 2008-2009.

Paul Watkins

Paul Watkins is Assistant Professor of English at Vancouver Island University. Paul’s areas of interest are CanLit (with a focus on African Canadian literature), Indigenous literatures, jazz and improvisation, African American literature, graphic novels, Digital Humanities, intersections between music and poetry, DJing, and film. His doctoral dissertation, “Soundin’ Canaan: Music, Resistance, and Citizenship in African Canadian Poetry,” addresses the politics and ethics of Canadian multicultural policy and citizenship—focusing on intersections between music and text as a border-crossing praxis—particularly as voiced by African Canadian poets.  

Aside from numerous interviews with writers and book and film reviews, his publications include a paper in Critical Studies in Improvisation titled, “Disruptive Dialogics: Improvised Dissonance in Thelonious Monk and Wu-Tang Clan’s 36 Chambers,” a paper in MaComère focusing on jazz poetics in Dionne Brand’s Ossuaries, and two papers coming out for edited book collections (2018): one on music and sound in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and another focusing on the poetry of Wayde Compton and Vancouver’s historically Black community of Hogan’s Alley. He has also guest edited a special issue of Critical Studies in Improvisation with Dr. Rebecca Caines that focused on Improvisation and Hip-Hop. At VIU, he is the Artistic Director of the “Writers on Campus” (Nanaimo) series, and he is involved with both the MeTA lab in Nanaimo and the Innovation Lab in Cowichan where he recently built a sound lab. Paul has a longstanding history with ICASP/IICSI, and brings institutional knowledge from his past experiences and project implementations.