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George Lewis

Emergent (2014) for flute and electronics*

density 2036: part ii

*Commissioned by the Pnea Foundation.


Emergent (2014) for flute and electronics
density 2036: part ii

Density ii - George Lewis - Emergent (excerpt)
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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


George E. Lewis is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University, where he serves as Area Chair in Composition and Faculty in Historical Musicology. 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, and a member of the Akademie der Künste Berlin, Lewis’s other honors include a MacArthur Fellowship (2002) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015), a Doris Duke Artist Award (2019), a United States Artists Walker Fellowship (2011), an Alpert Award in the Arts (1999), and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Lewis studied composition with Muhal Richard Abrams at the AACM School of Music and trombone with Dean Hey. A member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, Lewis's work in electronic and computer music, computer-based multimedia installations, and notated and improvisational forms is documented on more than 150 recordings. His work has been presented by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonia Orchestra, Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart, Mivos Quartet, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, London Sinfonietta, Spektral Quartet, Talea Ensemble, Dinosaur Annex, Ensemble Dal Niente, Ensemble Pamplemousse, Wet Ink, Ensemble Erik Satie, Eco Ensemble, and others, with commissions from American Composers Orchestra, International Contemporary Ensemble, Harvestworks, Ensemble Either/Or, Orkestra Futura, Turning Point Ensemble, Studio Dan, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, 2010 Vancouver Cultural Olympiad, IRCAM, Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, and others. Lewis’s music is published by Edition Peters.


Lewis received the 2012 SEAMUS Award from the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States, and his book, A Power Stronger Than Itself:  The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press, 2008) received the American Book Award and the American Musicological Society’s Music in American Culture Award.

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