CfP: Improvisation and the Politics of Everyday Sounds (Montréal)

Colloquium (Part of Suoni Per Il Popolo Festival):
“Improvisation and the Politics of Everyday Sounds: Cornelius Cardew and Beyond”
June 10-12, 2014 – Montréal
Deadline: March 10, 2014

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?
This colloquium aims to bring together artists, activists, and scholars to explore these and other related lines of inquiry. Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

  • The role of multi-arts collectives, such as the Scratch Orchestra, in the configuration of an ethos of liberation in the 1960s and 1970s
  • The cultural and historical specificities of the forms of freedom imagined and enacted through improvisatory modes of poiesis
  • The role of musicians’ unions and other professional associations in the development of alternative modes of music making and in the transformation of institutionalized hierarchies of aesthetic production and reception
  • The theories of aesthetics, culture, and politics that subtend improvisatory creative practices
  • The uses of improvisatory political and aesthetic practices in contemporary social movements
  • The ethical implications of the uses of improvisatory music making as a paradigm for theorizing egalitarian, dynamic, and dialogic social relations

We welcome proposals, in English or French, for papers, roundtables, workshops, and artist/activist interventions. Abstracts of no more than 300 words, accompanied by a brief biographical statement (maximum 250 words), should be submitted to Eric Lewis (eric.lewis@mcgill.ca) and Illa Carrillo Rodríguez (illacarrillo2@gmail.com) by March 10, 2014. Proposals for roundtables, workshops, and artist/activist interventions should include the following information:

  1. format and duration of the proposed event;
  2. details about the materials and technical support required for the event;
  3. biographical statements of all event participants.

Selected applicants will be notified by the end of March.

The colloquium will be held in Montréal, from June 10 to 12, 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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