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Improvisation and Pedagogy Coordinator, Co-investigator

Columbia University

Lewis was one of the founders of the Critical Studies/Experimental Practices graduate music curriculum at the University of California, San Diego. A 2002 MacArthur Fellow, his essay, "Teaching Improvised Music: An Ethnographic Memoir" recounts his development throughout the 1990s of new models for teaching improvisation in academic settings in ways that include historical and critical inquiry as well as performance. In 2008, he published A Power Stronger than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music to critical and academic acclaim. Prior to his work at UCSD, Lewis also taught interactive media at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and in summer workshops with Martin Bartlett and Martin Gotfrit at Simon Fraser University. He has served as music curator for the Kitchen in New York, and has collaborated in the Interarts Inquiry and Integrative Studies Roundtable at the Center for Black Music Research (Chicago). A member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, Lewis studied composition with Muhal Richard Abrams at the AACM School of Music, and trombone with Dean Hey. An active composer, improvisor, performer, and computer/installation artist, Lewis has explored electronic and computer music, computer-based multimedia installations, text-sound works, and notated forms. His artistic work is documented in more than 120 recordings. His oral history is archived in Yale University's collection of "Major Figures in American Music," and his published articles on music, experimental video, visual art, and cultural studies have appeared in numerous scholarly journals and edited volumes. He has an honours BA in philosophy from Yale University.

Improvisation is, simply put, being and living this very moment. No one can hide in music, and improvising in music is to be truly in this very moment and being completely yourself, with all your qualities and faults. It is probably the most honest state for a human being to be in.

– John McLaughlin in an interview with Daniel Fischlin.