Events & Lectures

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Taste for Chaos: The Hidden Order in the Art of Improvisation

László Z. Bitó '60 Conservatory Building  5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
On Monday, February 15, 2016 the Hannah Arendt Center, Music Program, Bard College Conservatory of Music, Office of Development and Alumni/ae Affairs and Language & Literature Program will host "A Taste for Chaos: The Hidden Order in the Art of Improvisation. Special Guests include: Composer, George Lewis and author of A Taste for Chaos: The Art Of Literary Improvisation, Randy Fertel, and Oliver Lake.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines improvisation as a “work or structure produced on the spur of the moment.” But this is not quite right. Improvisation, writes Randy Fertel,"claims to be spontaneous, off the cuff, uncrafted, careless, inspired, chaotic.” But beyond these claims, improvisation follows an unbending order. This has been true since Plato, who wrote, "all the good poets use no art at all, but they are inspired and possessed when they utter all these beautiful poems… Beautiful poems are not human, not made by man, but divine and made by God: and the poets are nothing but the gods’ interpreters.” For millennia, art has imagined that poetic improvisation was free, but also guided by a hidden logic. Jazz, writes Ralph Ellison, "springs from a contest in which each artist challenges all the rest; each solo flight, or improvisation, represents…a definition of his identity as individual, as member of the collectivity and as a link in the chain of tradition. Thus, because jazz finds its very life in an endless improvisation upon traditional materials, the jazzman must lose his identity even as he finds it.” Improvisation situates music in a productive tension between individual freedom and sentient order. Freedom as an aspect of improvisation means that individuals are free only insofar as they act in ways that are both free and constrained. This is very much what Hannah Arendt means when she writes that "Men are free—as distinguished from their possessing the gift of freedom— as long as they act, neither before nor after; for to be free and to act are the same.” In this evening on "A Taste for Chaos: The Hidden Order in the Art of Improvisation,” we bring together leading thinkers and musicians to explore the nature of improvisation and the arts of freedom. 

Randy Fertel holds a Ph.D. in English and American literature from Harvard University, where he received a student-voted teaching award. He has taught English at Harvard, Tulane, LeMoyne College, and the New School for Social Research. He specializes in the literature of the Vietnam War and the literature of exile. Fertel is president of the Fertel Foundation and co-founded, with the Nation Institute, the Ridenhour Prizes for Courageous Truth-Telling, named for My Lai whistleblower and investigative reporter Ron Ridenhour. He lives in New Orleans and New York.

George E. Lewis is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Lewis’s other honors include a MacArthur Fellowship (2002) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015). A member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, Lewis’s creative work has been presented by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra,  Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart, International Contemporary Ensemble, and others. His widely acclaimed book, A Power Stronger Than Itself:  The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press, 2008) received the American Book Award, and in 2015, Lewis received the degree of Doctor of Music from the University of Edinburgh.  Lewis and Benjamin Piekut are co-editors of the forthcoming two-volume Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies (2016).Oliver Lake Renowned saxophonist, composer, painter and poet Oliver Lake’s half century-long career is unparalleled. From collaborations with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Flux String Quartet, Bjork, Lou Reed, A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def and Me’shell Ndegeocello, to his co-founding of the Black Artist Group (BAG) and the highly acclaimed World Saxophone Quartet, creation of his non-profit Passin’ Thru organization, becoming a mainstay with Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum, publishing two books of poetry and frequently having original artwork displayed in exhibitions across the country, Oliver Lake views it all as part of the same whole.SCHEDULE: 
5 pm - 5:30pm Randy Fertel, followed by a 15 min. Q&A 
5:45pm Oliver Lake Featured Instrumentalist & Composer with Bard Contemporary Jazz Composers Ensemble (2 sets)
6 pm - 6:30pm George Lewis, followed by a 15 min. Q&A
6:45pm Oliver Lake with Bard Contemporary Jazz Composers Ensemble (2 sets)
7 pm Concluding Remarks: George Lewis, Randy Fertel, and Oliver Lake
Reception To Follow

Location: László Z. Bitó '60 Conservatory Building : MAP
Parking is available in the rear of the building in the Avery/Blum Parking Lot.
Date: February 15th

Free & Open to the Public

Upcoming Events

Monthly Virtual Reading Group for Hannah Arendt Center Members
Friday, February 6, 2015 – Friday, May 6, 2016
Virtual: BlueJeans Video Conferencing11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Read more
What Is Political Theory? Special Guest: Nicholas Xenos
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Reem-Kayden Center Laszlo Z. Bito '60 Auditorium5:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Read more

Courage To Be College Seminar Dinner & Lecture Series, with Reverend Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou
The Courage to Rebel: Ferguson, Faith and the Future of American Democracy
Monday, February 22, 2016
Kline, Faculty Dining Room6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Read more
Lunchtime Talk with Klemens von Klemperer Post Doctoral Fellow, Jana Schmidt
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Arendt Center1:30 pm
Read more
Joyce Dalsheim: Cultural Anthropologist Researching Nationalism, Religion, and the Israel/Palestine Conflict
On Goat Surveillance and the False Promises of Sovereignty
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Arendt Center1:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Read more
Learning from the West African Ebola Epidemic: The Role of Governance in Preventing Epidemics
Thursday, March 31, 2016
Carnegie Council for Ethics In International Affairs, NYC10:00 am – 5:30 pm
Read more
Download: Ebola PosterVer6.pdf POSTER
Film Screening: Vita Activa - The Spirit of Hannah Arendt 
Monday, April 4, 2016
Campus Center, Weis Cinema6:00 pm
Read more
Vita Activa - The Spirit of Hannah Arendt
Director: Ada Ushpiz
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Film Forum, NYCRead more
Lunchtime Talk with Post Doctoral Fellow, Samantha Hill
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Arendt Center12:30 pm
Read more
Courage To Be College Seminar Dinner & Lecture Series, with Leora Kahn
Monday, April 11, 2016
Kline, Faculty Dining Room6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Read more
Lunchtime Talk: "Critical Styles" With Special Guest: Cecilia Sjoeholm
Monday, April 18, 2016
Arendt Center12:30 pm
Read more
"Intertwinements - Rethinking Politics and Aesthetics in Hannah Arendt's Work" with Special Guest: Cecilia Sjöholm
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
László Z. Bitó '60 Conservatory Building6:30 pm
Read more
Reading Group: "Appearance and the Invisible" with Cecilia Sjöholm
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Arendt Center5:00 pm
Read more
Hell and Back Again movie screening in Weis Cinema
Sunday, April 24, 2016
Campus Center, Weis Cinema6:15 pm – 7:45 pm
Read more
Hell and Back Again: Movie Marathon at the Hannah Arendt Center!
Start Times: 10 am, 12:15 pm, and 4:30 pm
Monday, April 25, 2016
Arendt Center10:15 am – 6:30 pm
Read more
Courage To Be College Seminar Dinner & Lecture Series, with Danfung Dennis
Monday, April 25, 2016
Kline, Faculty Dining Room6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Read more
Lunchtime Talk with Post Doctoral Fellow, Elsa Natalia Mendoza Rockwell
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Arendt Center1:30 pm
Read more
"How Do We Talk About Difficult Questions?: Race, Sex and Religion on Campus"
The Hannah Arendt Center Annual Fall Conference
Thursday, October 20, 2016 – Friday, October 21, 2016
Olin Hall10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Read more