Colloquium (convened by IICSI)

The annual Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium features panel discussions, keynote speakers, artist talks, workshops, and more. It is convened by the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI) at the University of Guelph, a major collaborative research initiative comprising non-profit organisations, researchers, and universities funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

A description of this year’s Colloquium theme, Improvising Instruments, follows the schedule below. All Colloquium events are free and open to the public.


8:00pm, Colloquium Keynote
“Nightingales in Berlin: Improvisation in the More-than-Human World”
David Rothenberg (Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Music, Department of Humanities, New Jersey Institute of Technology)
Arboretum Centre, 200 Arboretum Road


9:30am, Demonstration and Lecture
Different Drums: Unorthodox and Unusual Percussion Instruments”
Jesse Stewart (School for Studies in Art and Culture, Carleton University)
Silence, 46 Essex Street

10:45am, Artist Talk
“Instr/Augmented Bodies: A Performative Artist Talk About Hybrid Bodies, Modes of Communication, and Modified Behaviours”
Lee Blalock (School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
Silence, 46 Essex Street

12:00pm, Concert
David Rothenberg
Silence, 46 Essex Street

4:30-6:00pm, Reception
10C Shared Space, 42 Carden Street 


9:30am to 10:30am, Book Launch and Performance
Stories of Impact: Douglas R. Ewart’s Crepuscule (ed. Ajay Heble) & Voices Found: Free Jazz and Singing (Chris Tonelli)
Performance by Douglas R. Ewart and Chris Tonelli (Department of Arts, Culture, and Media, University of Groningen, The Netherlands)
Art Gallery of Guelph, 358 Gordon Street

10:45am, Workshop
“Finding the Groove: A Workshop on Hip-hop Turntablism and Improvisation”
Niel Scobie (PhD Candidate, University of Western Ontario) with Alyssa Woods (School of Fine Art and Music, University of Guelph)
Art Gallery of Guelph, 358 Gordon Street

12:00pm to, CSA Noon Hour Concert
Eighth Street Orchestra
Branion Plaza, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Road East

3:50pm, Artist Roundtable Talk Back
Susan Alcorn, chik white, & Ben Grossman (moderator)
Royal City Church, 50 Quebec Street


5:30pm, Artist Talk Back
Jen Shyu, moderated by Chris Tonelli
Cooperators Hall, River Run Centre, 35 Woolwich Street

Improvising Instruments, 11-14 September 2019

What role do uncommon or invented instruments play in music-making and performance? Within the context of jazz and creative improvised music, there is a long and illustrious history of artists (Cecil Taylor, Fred Frith, Gerry Hemingway, Pauline Oliveros, Evan Parker, Meredith Monk, and many others) who play their instruments in unusual ways, using ‘extended techniques’ to expand the scope of their sonic expression. Such an approach allows musicians to expand on (or to unsettle) conventional roles associated with particular instruments, and to reject norms governing performance practices with respect to pitch, timbre, harmony, rhythm, and technique.

There is, in addition, a history of artists who’ve sought to integrate instruments and traditions from around the world into their practice. And improvising artists also notably make use of invented, or what curator Dieter Roelstraete calls, “purpose-built” instruments: When film composer Mark Korven felt that existing instruments weren’t able to produce the sounds he needed for his movies, he teamed up with guitar-maker Tony Duggan-Smith to make an original instrument, The Apprehension Engine. Artists such as the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Douglas R. Ewart, and the Creative Construction Company have breathed new life into everyday found objects by turning them into compelling sound sources. Others might be said to play uncommon instruments: instruments, that is, that are not typically associated with jazz.

Still others (for example George Lewis, Matana Roberts, and Rob Mazurek) use technology itself as a core part of their creative practice. This year’s edition of the Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium asks, What is generated from these new and alternative instruments, materials, methods, and practices? For the artists, for the audience? For the instruments themselves? What are the broader social implications of this form of experimentation? To what extent and in what ways do the tools with which we improvise provide new opportunities for revamping stereotypical approaches to sounding and to generating genuinely new toneworlds?

This colloquium gratefully acknowledges the Office of the Vice-President (Research), the College of Arts, the Ontario Agricultural College, the School of Fine Art and Music (SOFAM), the School of English and Theatre Studies, the School of Environmental Sciences (SES), the Department of Philosophy, and the Community Engaged Scholarship Institute at the University of Guelph for their support.