Interdisciplinarity: Dilettantes, Experts, and Novices

So LLEAPP 2018 begins on Monday here in the Sonoran desert of Arizona! People taking part this year are:  

  • Elizabeth Baker
  • Rosely Conz
  • Lyn Goeringer
  • Akiko Hatakeyama
  • Lauren Sarah Hayes
  • Adnan Marquez-Borbon
  • Marcin Pietrewszewski
  • Jules Rawlinson
  • Emiddio Vasquez

Why this year's theme of interdisciplinary improvisation?

Moving from a music department to an interdisciplinary department (Arts, Media + Engineering), I've been tasked to design courses that can appeal to students from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. Our undergrad programme has numerous majors from art, to film, dance, engineering, and music. We also have a strong 'maker' theme that runs through many of our courses and the facilities to boot. 

I designed a course on interdisciplinary improvisation called Improvising Cyborgs (h/t to Haraway) in which students from our various majors (and elsewhere) use techniques from improvisational practices including music and movement to develop multimedia performances together. Instead of being another course where students learn a new technique or software, we critically explore the technologies they are learning to use in other classes through improvisation. 

We examine some of the research coming out of the Centre for Music and Technology of the Sibelius Academy, in Helsinki, Finland. What can be easily translated between disciplines? Do we arrive at a state of non-discipline? How can techniques from electroacoustic performance practice be incorporated into this task? What is the role of documentation in this and can it be used as part of the performance?

Speaking to the latter question, I still want to explore improvisor-POV techniques inspired by this old session I did with FHM. Rather than action cams on each performer, performers would be wearing them:

My students have amazed me with some of their responses to this and their willingness to participate in Deep Listening, Search and Reflect, experimental pedagogies. They've inspired me by incorporating Indian classical dance, virtual instrument animation performance, live charcoal drawing, Iranian belly dancing, noise performance, hip hop expertise, digital drawing, sensor incorporation, materials, social media as performance, etc.

Thanks to Lyn for helping me figure out this year's workshop and curate the participants. In the past LLEAPP has been focused around sound but this year I propose to change the acronym to a broader Laboratory for Laptop/Live Electronic Audio/Art Performance Practice in fitting with the ethos of AME, and my current teaching and research. The people who are joining us could be described as experts in what they do, but all have resisted boundaries within their practices. Jules and Marcin are bringing (maybe!) a new system for visualising interactions between performers; I strongly recall seeing Akiko perform years (and more recently) ago using movement and a custom box/string interface to physically manifest her piece.

LLEAPP is an opportunity to further explore these boundaries and to question where the lines between dilettantes, experts, and novices breakdown, as I was arguing with some philosophers of mind a few weeks ago ;) I always find it a daunting process, which usually means it will turn out to be one of the ones I learn the most from. On that note, I have no idea what I'll be bringing next week but I will figure that out soon!


  1. We should manipulate the dates so that this (very strong) introductory post comes first! J


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