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George Lewis

New York, NY   

George E. Lewis, Professor of American Music at Columbia University, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, a MacArthur Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and the recipient of the Doris Duke Artist Award. A member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians since 1971, Lewis’s compositions, published by Edition Peters, have been performed by ensembles worldwide, and he holds honorary doctorates from the University of Edinburgh, New College of Florida, and Harvard University. Lewis is the author of A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press) and co-editor of the two-volume Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies.

Lewis’s work in electronic and computer music, computer-based multimedia installations, text-sound works, and notated and improvisative forms is documented on more than 140 recordings. His work has been presented by the American Composers Orchestra, International Contemporary Ensemble, Ensemble Dal Niente, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Ensemble Either/Or, London Philharmonia Orchestra, Talea Ensemble, Dinosaur Annex, Ensemble Pamplemousse, Wet Ink, Turning Point Ensemble, Ensemble Erik Satie, Orkestra Futura, Eco Ensemble, Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, and others, with commissions from the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, 2010 Vancouver Cultural Olympiad, OPUS (Paris), IRCAM, Harvestworks, Studio Museum in Harlem, the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, and others.

Most recently, Lewis has served as Ernest Bloch Visiting Professor of Music, University of California, Berkeley; Paul Fromm Composer in Residence, American Academy in Rome; Resident Scholar, Center for Disciplinary Innovation, Franke Institute for the Humanities, University of Chicago; and CAC Fitt Artist In Residence, Brown University. Lewis has been honored with the 2012 SEAMUS Award from the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States, and his widely acclaimed book, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press, 2008) is a recipient of the American Book Award and the American Musicological Society’s Music in American Culture Award. Lewis is the co-editor of the forthcoming two-volume Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies. Forthcoming projects include Afterword, an opera commissioned by the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry at the University of Chicago, to be premiered at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in Fall 2015.

Memex (2014), for symphonic orchestra

Fully notated work for orchestra, premiered by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, City Halls, Glasgow, February 22, 2014.

The MEMEX device, the thought experiment by Vannevar Bush, was the inspiration for this piece. A “memex” was to be a mechanized device able to become “an intimate supplement to associative memory.” My composition deploys associative discourse via “behavior sets,” complexes of elements that act in particular ways, exchange structures and recombine with other sets, and recur in new forms and guises.

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Mnemosis (2012), for seven players

Premiered by the Talea Ensemble, December 14, 2012. For a description, see http://taleaensemble.org/synchronicities-george-lewis/

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Assemblage (2013), for nine players

Premiered by Ensemble Dal Niente, October 18, 2013, Bowling Green New Music Festival, Bowling Green State University, Ohio. Both the title and the content of Assemblage refer to a type of visual artmaking that recombines and recontextualizes collections of natural and human-made objects. Artists such as Noah Purifoy, Betye Saar, John Outterbridge, and David Hammons, adopted and extended the assemblage process, recycling and reframing both the quotidian urban detritus of modern civilization.

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NewMusicBox Articles

NewMusicBox November 12 2020 | By George E. Lewis, Georg Friedrich Haas, Marco Blaauw
I Can’t Breathe:  A Virtual Dialogue

George Friedrich Haas’s composition I Can't Breathe, written just after the birth of the Black Lives Matter organization and well before the concept came to international prominence, raises a number...

NewMusicBox June 1 2011 | By George E. Lewis
Blogging the 2011 ACO Composer Readings: JCOI Origin Story

The production of art is strongly or even largely social.

NewMusicBox June 14 2010 | By George E. Lewis
Introduction to A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music

One of the aims of this book is to help those younger artists in dealing with the richness of the legacy that they carry, as well as in understanding what...