Past Event

Kyra Gaunt and Vijay Iyer - Comparing Domains of Improvisation

March 3, 2023
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
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Event Description

Kyra Gaunt - Trained to Fear the Unexpected: Improvising Culture in Class thru Black Girls’ Musical Play

Glitches in power and domination (L. Russell 2020) surface in surprising ways when 77 undergrad students are expected to have rhythm, doing or “bodying” music vs. reading about and listening to the abstract mediated sounds of musical blackness. Play is the thing that shifts the weight of white, patriarchal dominance in Kyra Gaunt's classroom. Black girls’ musical play, to be exact. Black girls’ game-songs offer risky play. Risky or free play has been increasingly weeded out of childhood and rarely allowed in rigid academic classrooms.

Incorporating embodied musical play into class allows the Black feminist imagination to surface—a radical, risky, and “ratchet imagination” (B. Love 2017) of girls becomes thinkable in tangible, rather than abstract, ways through collaborative play and improvisation. Surprise often reveals the glitches in power and domination, too. Play and power emerge from mindful curiosity and courage. From bodying a multiply-marginalized repertoire in musical blackness, the unexpected is allowed, sought not taught, revealing the extended mind of interoceptive/cognitive awareness.

Vijay Iyer - Emergent Musicalities: Embodied Cognition vs. Open-Ended Play

The category of music aligns with the category of the human; the two should be understood as mutually constitutive, unstable constructs. Like personhood, music’s status is not freely given. Rather, it is conferred through a contingent process in which “you,” the subject, experience an affective (which is to say, embodied) relation with the sensory trace of an other. Such a precarious sonic relation, which Vijay Iyer is calling musicality, can assume many forms; we must imagine not one but many musicalities, many modes of sonic mattering, coming into existence across the anthropocene. With this argument Vijay Iyer asks that we unthink the totalizing category of “music,” and begin to theorize humankind’s innumerable, diverse, emergent musicalities, via a series of scenes of mutable, embodied sonic social life.

Event Speaker

  • Kyra Gaunt, Assistant Professor of Music and Theatre, University at Albany
  • Vijay Iyer, Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts, Harvard University 

Event Information

Free and open to the public; RSVP required via Eventbrite. Registered attendees will receive an event link shortly before the seminar begins. Please contact the group organizer, Jessie Cox, at [email protected] with any questions. This event is sponsored by the Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience program at Columbia University. For more information, please visit the event webpage.