Spotlight on ICASP Postdoctoral Fellows

Each Postdoctoral Fellow was asked:
1.) Tell us a little about your current research and how it relates to improvisation?
2.) Can you name an album that is seminal for you?

Chris Tonelli (Guelph): I’m working on histories of vocal improvisation. I’m interested in vocalists who have used their voices in unconventional ways. Some of the work is on improvisation by figures like Jeanne Lee, Yoko Ono, and Maggie Nicols in the 1960s and 1970s, but I’m also doing ethnographic work in contemporary communities of improvisers.

My own practice as a vocal improviser began after I heard Mike Patton’s album Adult Themes for Voice and I fully embraced the practice after seeing Paul Dutton improvise live and hearing his album Mouth Pieces. In my current research, recordings like the Maggie Nicols/Phil Minton/Brian Eley/Julie Tippetts album Voice and Jeanne Lee’s work on records like Gunter Hampel’s album The 8th of July 1969 and Marion Brown’s album In Sommerhausen stand out as key documents of the ways improvisation communities in the 1960s and 1970s were fostering the development and acceptance of non-pitch based forms of singing.

Lauren Michelle Levesque
(Guelph): My current research examines the relationship between local conflict transformation and improvised practices. This relationship is posited as a resource for understanding the ways communities creatively engage with conflict and change, including the roots and impacts of violence and social healing.

I grew up listening to Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour. Their music is infused with an incredible capacity for storytelling; a capacity that I currently explore as central to arts-based conflict transformation and peace building practices.

Illa Carrillo Rodríguez (McGill): My research looks at how embodied, improvised forms of cultural and political activism have contributed to the construction of social spaces for collectively wrestling with the history and ongoing legacies of authoritarian-neoliberal regimes of governmentality in postdictatorship Argentina. The focus of my current work is on a series of street demonstrations and music festivals organized by some of the country’s most prominent human rights organizations in the late 1990s and early 2000s, a period when Argentina’s public sphere was dominated by discourses of national pacification that sought to legitimate the impunity of those responsible for state repression during the last military dictatorship (1976-1983). I am particularly interested in examining the sonic repertoires and modes of noise- and music-making that emerged from the interactions among activists, performers, and audiences during these demonstrations and festivals.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, singer Amelita Baltar recorded a repertoire of songs written by poet Horacio Ferrer and composer, arranger, and bandoneón player Astor Piazzolla. When I first listened to those songs and to the 1968 recording of Ferrer and Piazzolla’s “little opera” María de Buenos Aires, I remember being struck by Baltar’s husky voice, the very audible breathing that punctuated her phrasing, and her hyperbolic, yet strangely sober, rendering of Ferrer’s verses, which were populated by rather baroque figures: a lunfardo-speaking Shakespearean character (bandoneón player Aníbal Troilo), whose voice appears in the guise of “a cat walking on hidden cymbals” (“El gordo triste”); a madman-flâneur wearing half a melon for a hat, “rare mixture of next-to-last vagabond and first stowaway on his way to Venus” (“Balada para un loco”); and an agonizing heart, “with an electrocardiogram like that of the tango,” who wages “mysterious struggles” that it never talks about with its owner (“No quiero otro”).Those songs were my point of entry into the literary, musical, and political universes that have been my subject of inquiry and reflection for nearly two decades now.

Alexandre Pierrepont
(McGill): As an ethnographer, and an anthropologist, and after a fifteen years long study on the AACM, with fieldworks in Chicago, NYC, and in Europe, which will turn into a book at the end of the year, I intend to compare improvisation as developed by creative musicians, especially the “in ‘n out” approach (being inside and outside at the same time, in Paul Gilroy’s terms), to other “systems” of thoughts, and practices, like the taoist philosophy or the balance of opposites as seen by the German romantics or the surrealists. As if it were the seasons, as if it was a tribute to Novalis, Stuart Hall, and Jean François Billeter. If creative music has been like an alternative institution in the modern and post-modern western world, is it also possible to connect it to other alternatives to this world?

One album is impossible. I’m all about multiplicity. Let’s say three. Sound, by the Roscoe Mitchell Sextet. Dogon A.D., by Julius Hemphill. And the Mark Hollis solo album.

One album is impossible. I’m all about multiplicity. Let’s say three. Sound, by the Roscoe Mitchell Sextet. Dogon A.D., by Julius Hemphill. And the Mark Hollis solo album.



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