The Music, Language, and Culture Workshop


Society for Ethnomusicology Dry-Run Presentations
Join us in preparing to present in Ottawa!
October 5th and 12th – Cobb 115 – 5:00pm
Refreshments will be provided

October 5th:
(Re)orienting Improvisation: Ethics, Community, and Alternative Epistemologies of Creative Practice: A Roundtable
Varshini Narayanan – (individual paper title forthcoming)
Jonah Francese – “Rabbit Invents the Saxophone”: Indigenous Modes of Improvisation through Storytelling

This roundtable can be understood as a series of provocations to rethink the category of “improvisation” as a means of circumscribing musical traditions. Scholars such as Bonnie Wade (1973) have long since unsettled the Eurocentric dichotomy of improvisation and composition in the context of Indian classical music; more recently, MacDonald and Wilson’s (2016) qualitative study of free jazz ascribes varying degrees of agency to musicians within the improvising ensemble, furthering this conceptual rupture. The panelists for this discussion use “alternative epistemologies of improvisation” as a point of departure to challenge hegemonic definitions of improvisation in ethnomusicology, and to interrogate the translatability of “improvisation” when working across disparate musical traditions.

The agenda for this discussion is divided into three sections. First: What are the assumptions that underlie “improvisation”? What are the historical processes by which it has come to signify certain practices and aesthetic philosophies? Second: How do pedagogical approaches to improvisation vary across cultures, communities, and institutions? What values do these approaches uphold or subvert? Finally: wherein lies the value of improvisation as a concept, particularly in the context of cross-genre and cross-cultural encounters? Does the term erase difference, or can it be tooled in productive ways to encourage dialogic performances?

Individual contributions to this roundtable will include a comparative discussion of pedagogical practices in the guru-sishya parampara and the jazz conservatory, as well as other institutions; an exploration of indigenous perspectives on improvisation as storytelling; and a historical consideration of the conceptual linkages between Black music and improvisation.

October 12th:
Pramantha Tagore – TBD
Fiona Boyd – Live from WPAQ: Sounding Pastness for the Living
Rachel Chery – Radio Haïti: Broadcasting a Caribbean Diaspora through Music and Solidarity

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