George E. Lewis

My commitment: Exploring how improvisation can transcend disciplines to illuminate the nature of being human

I am a composer and musicologist whose scholarship and teaching explore improvisation as a ubiquitous practice of everyday life. For me, music and the arts are part of a larger network tracing the entire human condition of improvisation, whether it be creating a song, trying new ideas at work, or even crossing the street.

As humanities scholars and creators of music, we realize that for any kind of creative act, whether in the arts or in society at large, you need to create diverse communities of people who are thinking hard about how what they are doing can make a difference in the world. Columbia’s Department of Music engages composers, musicologists, ethnomusicologists, and music theorists in productive dialogue, not only with other members of our Faculty of Arts and Sciences—philosophers, neuroscientists, historians, literary scholars, social scientists, and scholars of women, gender, race, and ethnicity—but also with a whole array of creative faculty artists in Columbia’s School of the Arts.

Our common goal is to forge the future, and our students are a crucial part of that future; we try to help students recognize and follow their own paths. Here at Columbia, students and faculty alike exchange ideas with an international intellectual community, and bring what we have discovered back into the global public sphere.

 

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