May 2007
Socializing Cyberinfrastructure: Networking the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
George E. Lewis, Columbia University

Moving Ahead

Unfortunately, there are still no easy or stable definitions for the dynamics of human interaction that LAM researchers are exploring. Thus, it would be difficult to negotiate a single, overarching meaning for improvisation from the vast array of possible definitions. Rather, the totality of the compendium of knowledge developed by placing scholars and researchers in virtual dialogue would eventually inscribe the outlines of an articulated, emergent definition of improvisation, drawn from multiple fields and thereby moving beyond the preoccupations of any one. What we can say for now is that improvisation must be open–that is, open to inputs, open to contingency; a real-time, real-world mode of production. Thus, in the 21st Century, scholarly work on improvisation, like improvisation itself, is international and multicultural, proceeding from a panoply of theoretical positions that revise existing histories and construct new historiographies.

My conclusion here is that the direct study of improvisation will be vital to the production of new ways of using information technology - not only in the arts, but also across the board. Human identity, particularly in negotiation with new technologies, is continually reinscribed through processes of interactivity and improvisation, thereby demonstrating its centrality to our birthright as human beings. Thus, the interdisciplinary study of how meaning is exchanged in real-time interaction will be crucial to the development of new user interfaces, new forms of art, more sophisticated interactive computer applications, and much more - simply because improvisation is not only what people do when they play jazz or bluegrass, but also what they are doing when they play video games, surf the Net, or decide how to cross Main Street.

1 See Huhtamo. E. “From Cybernation to Interaction: A Contribution to an Archaeology of Interactivity. In The Digital Dialectic: New Essays on New Media. Peter Lunenfeld, ed. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999.
2 Belgrad, D. The culture of spontaneity: Improvisation and the Arts in Postwar America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.
3 Musica Elettronica Viva. Spacecraft/Unified Patchwork Theory. Alga Marghen, Plana-M 15NMN.038. Compact disc.
4 Behrman, D. Wave Train. Alga Marghen Italy B 5NMN.020, 1998. Compact disc.
5 Mumma, G. Live Electronic Music. Tzadik CD 7074. Compact disc.
6 Chadabe, J. Electric Sound: The Past and Promise of Electronic Music. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1997.
7 Martirano, S. The Composer in the Computer Age V: A Salvatore Martirano Retrospective, 1962-92. Centaur Records 2266, 1996. Compact disc
8 Behrman, D. On the Other Ocean. Lovely Music CD/LP 1041, [1978] 1996. Compact disc.
9 Brown, C., Bischoff, J. “Indigenous to the Net: Early Network Music Bands in the San Francisco Bay Area.” Available at crossfade.walkerart.org/brownbischoff/, Accessed May 7, 2007.
10 See www.livealgorithms.org/
11 See homepage.mac.com/oobop/lam/whatis.htm
12 Major Collaborative Research Initiatives (MCRI): 2006-07 Competition Results. Available at www.sshrc.ca/web/winning/comp_results/2007/mcri_e.asp. Accessed May 7, 2007.
13 Blackwell, T., Young, M. “Live Algorithms.” Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour Quarterly, Issue 122, pp. 7-9, Autumn 2005.
14 Lewis, G. Endless Shout. Tzadik TZ 7054, 2000. Compact disc; Lewis, George E. “Too Many Notes: Computers, Complexity and Culture in Voyager.” Leonardo Music Journal 10, pp. 33-39, 2000.
15 Bailey, D. Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music. London: British Library Sound Archive, 1992.
16 Schutz, A. “Making Music Together.” In Schutz, Alfred. Collected Papers II: Studies in Social Theory. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff (1964), 159-178.

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Reference this article
Lewis, G. E. "Live Algorithms and The Future of Music," CTWatch Quarterly, Volume 3, Number 2, May 2007. http://www.ctwatch.org/quarterly/articles/2007/05/live-algorithms-and-the-future-of-music/

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