Mizzou International Composers Festival Spotlight: Distinguished Guest Composer George Lewis

The Mizzou New Music Initiative is pleased to welcome George Lewis as one of two Distinguished Guest Composers for the 2024 Mizzou International Composers Festival (MICF).

The Festival, which takes place from Monday, July 22 through Saturday, July 27 on the campus of the University of Missouri and at select Columbia locations, will also welcome Distinguished Guest Composer Mary Kouyoumdjian.

Lewis will have private meetings with the Resident Composers, work with groups who will be performing his music at the Festival, and make a public presentation about his music and career as a composer. The presentation is at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 23 at the Sinquefield Music Center’s Sheryl Crow Hall.

George Lewis

Two works by Lewis, “Arcades” and “The Deformation of Mastery” will be performed at the Festival by MICF Ensemble-in-Residence Alarm Will Sound. The concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 25 at the Sinquefield Music Center’s Sheryl Crow Hall. It will also feature music by Kouyoumdjian and Andrew Norman, plus a piece by MNMI Artistic Director Stefan Freund celebrating the 15th Festival.

George Lewis is an American composer, musicologist, and trombonist. He is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music and Area Chair in Composition at Columbia University. In 2020-21 he was a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study), and currently serves as Artistic Director of the International Contemporary Ensemble. He 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 member of the Akademie der Künste Berlin, and an Honorary Member of the American Musicological Society. 

Lewis’s other honors include the Doris Duke Artist Award (2019), 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 work is presented by ensembles worldwide, published by Edition Peters. A Yamaha Artist, Lewis is widely regarded as a pioneer in the creation of computer programs that improvise in concert with human musicians.

His central areas of scholarship include the history and criticism of experimental music, computer music, interactive media, and improvisation, particularly as these areas become entangled with the dynamics of race, gender, and decolonization. His most frequently cited articles on these topics include “New Music Decolonization in Eight Difficult Steps” (VAN Outernational, 2020) and “Improvised Music after 1950: Afrological and Eurological Perspectives” (Black Music Research Journal, 1996). 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 the American Musicological Society’s Music in American Culture Award. Lewis is the co-editor (with Harald Kisiedu) of the bilingual edited volume Composing While Black: Afrodiasporic New Music Today/Afrodiasporische Neue Musik Heute (2023), as well as (with Benjamin Piekut) the two-volume Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies (2016).

Lewis’s many publications on technology include “Too Many Notes: Computers, Complexity and Culture in Voyager” (Leonardo Music Journal, 2000) and “Why Do We Want Our Computers to Improvise?” (Oxford Handbook of Algorithmic Music, 2018). Lewis holds honorary doctorates from the University of Edinburgh, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Oberlin College, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, New England Conservatory, New College of Florida, and Birmingham City University, among others.

“Working with George Lewis will be a great experience for Alarm Will Sound, the Mizzou New Music Ensemble, and the Resident Composers,” Freund said. “He is a brilliant musician, whose music forges new ground through innovative techniques and contrasting textures.”

For a complete schedule of events, times, dates, and venues for the 2024 Mizzou International Composers Festival, please visit the MICF website.