IF 2024: “Silence-Producing Machine”

Artists and scholars reflect on improvisation as a key resource for contemporary life during the colloquium and improvisation festival, “Silence-Producing Machine: Improvisation in and Beyond Music and the Arts”

  • The International Colloquium “Silence-Producing Machine: Improvisation in and Beyond Music and the Arts,” will take place from June 24 to 29 at the Fonoteca Nacional de México (National Sound Library), in Mexico City, incorporating the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation’s annual Improvisation Festival, IF 2024, which will be held for the first time outside of Canada.

  • Noteworthy figures of improvised artistic practice and scholarship such as Ajay Heble and Ellen Waterman (Canada), George Lipsitz and David Rothenberg (United States), Ana Ruiz, Francisco Téllez, and Wilfrido Terrazas (Mexico), Wade Matthews (Spain), and Gonzalo Biffarella (Argentina) will participate. Admission for the event will be free and it will be broadcast live on across 17’s social networks, as well as on improvfest.ca.

  • The meeting is organized by 17, the Institute of Critical Studies and the Fonoteca Nacional de México, from Mexico, and by the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI), from Canada.

24 June 2024 – Appreciated in the arts although reviled in certain academic and social circles, improvisation will be the central theme of the international colloquium and festival, “Silence-Producing Machine: Improvisation in and Beyond Music and the Arts”. This event will take place from Monday, June 24, to Saturday, June 29, at the National Sound Library in Mexico City, and will be free to attend.

The meeting will bring together more than 60 specialists and artists from various countries, who will explore improvisation as a fundamental capacity and a necessary resource in all areas of human life: culture, society, politics, science, technology, and the environment.

Among the participants are the founding Director of the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation, Ajay Heble (Canada), as well as musicians and researchers Wade Matthews and Ángel Faraldo (Spain), Ricardo Arias and Juanita Delgado (Colombia), Rebecca Caines, Kimber Sider, and Ellen Waterman (Canada), Gonzalo Biffarella (Argentina), David Rothenberg and George Lipsitz (United States), and Cees Hamelink (Netherlands), among others.

From Mexico, participants include Ana Ruiz, a pioneer of free jazz in the country; Francisco Téllez, founder of the Bachelor’s Degree in Jazz at the Higher School of Music; Alain Derbez, saxophonist, writer, and historian of Jazz in Mexico; as well as figures from the national scene such as: Germán Bringas, Mauricio Sotelo, Remi Álvarez, Juanjosé Rivas, Doris Steinbichler, Fernando Vigueras, Darío Bernal, Gibrán Andrade, Maricarmen Graue, Ramón del Buey, Adriana Camacho, Gudinni Cortina, Marcos Miranda, Emiliano Cruz, Vania Fortuna, María Goded, Carlos Grecco, Andrés Guadarrama, Rossana Lara, Eli Piña, Roberto Tercero, and Ollin Vázquez.

The event aims to promote the field of Critical Studies in Improvisation in the Spanish-speaking world.

Improvisation, understood as “the ability to negotiate with grace the difference between knowledge and its limits, plans and life,” is necessary to face the uncertainty and enormous changes experienced today by individuals and societies on a global scale. As Walter Benjamin clearly expressed more than a century ago: “These are days when no one should rely unduly on his ‘competence’. Strength lies in improvisation. All the decisive blows are struck left-handed.

Benjamín Mayer Foulkes, director of 17, Institute of Critical Studies, explains: “We want to transform improvisation from being just one subject among others, often conceived as a mere artistic technique, into a field of experience and inquiry that corresponds to the depth and transcendence it has in our lives, whether we identify as artists or not.”

“Our goal is to give improvisation the dignity of a field of knowledge and experience, with journals, specialized meetings, and training opportunities that bring together creators and researchers from music, the arts, and other diverse fields,” adds Mayer. “Our Canadian partners have cultivated the field of improvisation studies for over 25 years; we want to achieve for Spanish what they have for English.”

Benjamín Mayer Foulkes coordinates the colloquium and festival with Ricardo Lomnitz Soto, a musician, philosopher, and researcher at the 17 Institute.

Over the six-day event, the importance of improvisation will be analyzed in the realms of thought, subjectivity, social organization, technology, and even relationships with non-human life forms. The program also features a dozen live concerts.

The colloquium and festival will be streamed live on 17, Institute for Critical Studies’ social media sites: YouTube I Facebook I Instagram. You can also watch the entirety of the IF 2024 stream (June 26 -29) directly on improvfest.ca.

Some outstanding activities

On June 24, the opening day of the colloquium, a panel will be held between the Chilean researcher from the University of Michigan, Sergio Villalobos Ruminott, and the Dutchman Ruud Kaulingfreks, a scholar of organizations from the Humanistic University of Utrecht.

The following day, Mexican psychoanalyst Susana Bercovich will reflect on the relationship between psychoanalysis and improvisation, joined by Mexican guitarist Eduardo Piastro, former director of the Jazz Bachelor’s program at the National School of Music, and Colombian singer, manager and theorist Juanita Delgado.

On Wednesday, June 26, IICSI’s Improvisation Festival, IF 2024, will be inaugurated with a presentation by Sentire, a group combining contemporary musicians from the Liminar ensemble and deaf actors from the deaf theater company Seña y Verbo. This was developed by 17 for the Honorary Doctorate presentation to Evelyn Glennie, the Scottish deaf percussionist.

On Thursday, June 27 the Bogota-based Trío Lésion (Ana Ruiz Valencia, María “Mange” Valencia, and Santiago Botero) will give a concert. There will also be an improvisatory relay with about twenty musicians, who “will move according to their wishes between three spaces to interact with others, the audience, and the acoustics of each place, in an exercise that has become a classic in the world of free improvisation,” says Ricardo Lomnitz Soto. “Above all, it is an exercise in listening and relating to the other, in which the relationship with silence is crucial.”

The next day, Francisco Téllez, a great promoter of Jazz in Mexico, will narrate his career and musical journey. There will also be a concert featuring Wade Matthews, a Spanish-American theoretical authority on free improvisation in Spanish and an outstanding electroacoustic musician; Argentines Gonzalo Biffarella, renowned interpreter of the Chapman Stick, composer and promoter of contemporary music, and Franco Pellini, a percussionist active in the Latin American improvisation scene; as well as Mexican bass clarinetist, composer, and writer Ramón del Buey.

The Improvisation Festival will also feature performances by noted improvising artists currently based in Canada, such as Ellen Waterman, jashen edwards, Lewis Melville, and the Vertical Squirrels.

To close the festival on Saturday, June 29, there will be a presentation by the ensemble Generación Espontánea, a contemporary classic of improvisation in Mexico celebrating its 18th anniversary. Its members include Wilfrido Terrazas, Carlos Alegre, Sarmen Almond, Darío Bernal Villegas, Alexander Bruck, Misha Marks, Natalia Pérez Turner, and others. Additionally, composer and performer Jerónimo Naranjo and Milo Tamez, one of Mexico’s great percussionists, will play the Batería Suspendida (Suspended Drumset), a recently created musical instrument, accompanied by strings and percussion.

Admission to the colloquium and festival requires prior registration at 17’s website, where the complete program can also be found. Admission to the festival is free. No ticketing required. For more information about the festival, please visit ImprovFest.ca.

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