George Lewis

Emergent for flute and electronics (2014)

Commissioned by the Pnea Foundation




George E. Lewis is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Lewis’s other honors include a MacArthur Fellowship (2002) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015). A member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, Lewis’s creative work has been presented by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonia Orchestra, Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart, International Contemporary Ensemble, and others. His widely acclaimed book, A Power Stronger Than Itself:  The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press, 2008) received the American Book Award, and in 2015, Lewis received the degree of Doctor of Music (DMus, honoris causa) from the University of Edinburgh.




Emergent (2014), for flute and electronics

This work, written for Claire Chase’s Density 2036 project, addresses Edgard Varèse’s avowed preference for sound-producing machines over sound-reproducing ones by productively conflating the two. The combination of relatively long digital delays, interactive digital spatialization, and timbre transformation transforms the fully scored flute material into a virtual, quasi-improvisative orchestral space, creating a dance among multiple flutists following diverse yet intersecting trajectories in which nonlinearity is invoked and uncertainty is assured.  Rather than presenting the redundant truism of a composer “working with time,” this work is created in dialogue with my deliberate misprision of Varèse’s stated intention for his 1958 Poème électronique to introduce “a fourth [dimension], that of sound projection” to music.  Varèse’s statement seems to obliquely invoke the notion of spacetime, an interpretation supported by a 1968 account of one of the composer’s dreams that suggests the related notion of quantum teleportation as well as the sound of my piece: “He was in a telephone booth talking to his wife, who was at the time in Paris.  His body became so light, so immaterial, so evanescent that suddenly, limb by limb, he disintegrated and flew away toward Paris, where he was reconstructed, as though all his being had become spirit.”

— George Lewis