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Improv Guru George Lewis Performs Disklavier Work at Kennedy Center Event

Posted by on in The Disklavier Frontier
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Composer, performer, and music theorist George E. Lewis recently joined Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz Jason Moran in a special performance celebrating the 35th anniversary of the MacArthur Fellows program. Lewis and Moran are both past MacArthur Fellows, named in 2002 and 2010, respectively. In discussing the work, Lewis detailed the setup of the one-of-a-kind performance, enthusiastically drawing on his 25-year history with the Disklavier, calling it a "reliable instrument, great instrument, great sound." 

Later in the discussion, Lewis makes analogies between musical artificial intelligence and computer-controlled anti-lock brake systems or even the Mars Rover, driving the point that there are many parallels between musical interaction and the operations of the everyday world. 

The work, essentially an improvised chamber piece for piano, trombone, and computer-controlled Disklavier, incorporates electronic elements, namely a degree of artificial intelligence, without any electronic sounds. The computer programming "listens" for musical elements via audio of the live players, then interprets them and interacts via the Disklavier. 

In addition to creating the Voyager interactive music performance software used in this performance, George Lewis is the author of The Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies, a two-volume work that examines the process of improvisation both in and out of the arts. 

Shana Kirk has been passionate about the combination of music, teaching, and technology since the early 1990s. As an undergrad at Lipscomb University, armed with a Yamaha PSR and a Mac Classic computer, she may have been the first freshman music theory student in history to turn in homework on floppy disk! As a graduate student at the University of Denver's Lamont School of Music, she learned how to avoid extra accompanying rehearsals with the magic of the Yamaha Disklavier. She has been teaching, performing, and helping others with music technology ever since.

In addition to an active teaching and performing career, Shana participates in extensive music outreach. During 2000, she helped develop and operate the "What Makes Music?" discovery center for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. She also helped develop Yamaha's Say Yes to Music outreach initiative, performing exclusively on Yamaha Clavinova digital pianos in elementary schools across the US.

Currently, as a music education technology consultant, Shana works with industry leaders including Yamaha, TimeWarp Technologies, Keys to Imagination, and Piano Adventures, to guide music educators in 21st century teaching practices through workshops, webinars, and technical support.

Recognized as an expert in the technologies associated with independent music instruction, she has presented workshops and performances at events including MTNA National Conference, National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, College Music Society, Association for Technology in Music Instruction, World Piano Pedagogy Conference, The Royal Conservatory's Summer Summit, The Canadian Music Teachers' Association, and numerous regional and state events. As a writer, she frequently contributes music and music-technology based articles to such publications as Clavier Companion and American Music Teacher.

Here at DEN, Shana loves to discover all the new things that teachers and schools are doing with Disklavier, and is constantly experimenting at her home studio in Denver, CO.

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