McGill Colloquium 2014

Montréal, June 9-11, 2014

Improvisation and the Politics of Everyday Sounds: Cornelius Cardew and Beyond

The Colloquium “Improvisation and the Politics of Everyday Sounds: Cornelius Cardew and Beyond” takes the work of British composer Cornelius Cardew (1936-1981) as a point of departure for a reflection on the aesthetic, ethical, and political entailments of forms of art and activism that engage with improvisatory creative practices. In his work with groups such as the Scratch Orchestra and AMM, Cornelius Cardew explored modes of music making that emphasized social and aesthetic notions of freedom and gave pride of place to improvisatory, intermedial, and experimental poietic procedures, among them the use of chance, the recourse to everyday sounds, the exploration of unconventional music notation techniques, the incorporation of non-trained performers to music making processes, and the interplay of different forms of aesthetic perception and representation. What aspects of the creative process did these procedures call attention to, and how did they attempt to unsettle naturalized forms of aesthesis? To what extent did such practices contribute to the reconfiguration of established modes of music making, and in what ways did they probe the boundaries between distinct aesthetic realms and social formations (e.g. between high art and mass culture, between music and grassroots activism)? What political commitments and concerns underpinned these improvisatory, intermedial modes of poiesis, and what forms of freedom did they actualize? In what ways are these poietic procedures (and their attendant iterations of freedom) in dialogue with the improvisatory forms of art and activism rehearsed in other geographical, cultural, and historical contexts?

The colloquium will be held in Montréal, from June 9 to 11, 2014, as part of the Suoni Per Il Popolo Festival. It will feature, among other events, a concert by pianist John Tilbury and a performance of selections of Cornelius Cardew’s The Great Learning by the Bozzini Quartet.

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