Sunday, November 14, 2010

Forces Set in Motion

George Lewis & Alexander von Schlippenbach @ Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Friday, November 12, 2010

Interactive Trio (2007)
George Lewis: trombone
Alexander von Schlippenbach: piano
Lewis interactive music system: piano

Improvisation as a Way of Life: A Conversation with Arnold I. Davidson, George Lewis, and Alexander von Schlippenbach

The AACM Great Black Music Ensemble with George Lewis and Alexander von Schlippenbach
George Lewis: conductor
Alexander von Schlippenbach: piano
Mwata Bowden: director, conductor, baritone saxophone
Nicole Mitchell: flutes, voice, conductor
Douglas Ewart: sopranino saxophone, flute
Ernest Khabeer Dawkins: alto saxophone
Edwin Daugherty: alto saxophone
Fred Jackson: alto saxophone
Ari Brown: tenor saxophone
Edward House: tenor saxophone
Leon Q. Allen: trumpet
Jerome Croswell: trumpet
Ben Lamar Gay: trumpet
Shaun Johnson: trumpet
Dee Alexander: voice
Aisha Scott: voice
Saalik Ziyad: voice
Ann E. Ward: voice, piano
Khari B.: spoken word
Harrison Bankhead: bass
Dawi Williams: bass
Art "Turk" Burton: percussion
Coco Elysses: percussion
Vincent Davis: drums
Mike Reed: drums

Composer, improviser and scholar George Lewis has a preference for stepping back once he has set things in motion. His interactive music system, a manifestation of his decades of work with electronics and computer programming, represents his personal approach toward improvisation realized in algorithmic form. He has developed a methodology that allows the computer to "hear" and respond in much the same way an improvising musician does. With a bit of the real-time maintenance to insure that his device was operating properly, Lewis would wander off the stage to indulge in a bit of the audience perspective as Alexander von Schlippenbach explored a piano duo environment with the machine. George Lewis then returned to the stage to contribute his own "input" to the environment with his trombone. All with the calm, professorial demeanor of the Edwin H. Case professor of American Music at Columbia University.

Likewise, after setting the AACM Great Black Music Ensemble in motion with his own conduction, George Lewis again wandered off stage for an audience perspective. A large ensemble of talented improvisers capable of lurching in multiple directions both with or without a designated "leader" operating from the podium. Over the course of this performance the conduction duties were assumed by Nicole Mitchell and later by Mwata Bowden before Lewis returned to the stage for the final applause of the evening. The Association for the Advancement of Creative Music - an organization now 45 years strong fantastically documented by George Lewis in A Power Stronger Than Itself - is itself an organization that Lewis has helped shaped as a member that continues as another force set in motion.

This performance and panel discussion in Chicago's south side is another impressive example of the way the AACM has developed and grown a sympathetic audience for free improvisation. A daunting task that feels impossible in many other urban centers. Each part of the evening was presented with an honest transparency that never tripped over academic posturing or egocentric excess. An example of hospitable and challenging music.

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