Special Events

Person Specificity and Physiovalence: Performance Practice Toward Decolonizing Classical Music

Special Events
29 Sep, 2022

Person Specificity and Physiovalence: Performance Practice Toward Decolonizing Classical Music

with Ken Ueno
Composer, vocalist, improviser, sound artist, and Professor of Music, UC Berkeley

Presented by Berkeley Arts + Design and co-sponsored by The Department of Ethnic Studies

Video and Transcript Now Online

Click here to watch the recorded lecture.

Click here to view the transcript.

Noting how Western European classical music values are entrenched exnominatively in music pedagogy in the United States, composer, vocalist, and artist Ken Ueno moves toward creating a personal practice that seeks to “uncorset” musical practice and, by extension, claim artistic agency for those who do not belong to the dominant culture.

Rome Prize and Berlin Prize winner Ueno ( is a composer, vocalist, and sound artist whose music has been performed at venues and festivals around the world. Ueno holds a PhD from Harvard University, and his biography appears in The Grove Dictionary of American Music.

About Ken Ueno

Rome Prize and Berlin Prize winner Ken Ueno, is a composer, vocalist, improviser, and sound artist. His music celebrates artistic possibilities which are liberated through a Whitmanesque consideration of the embodied practice of unique musical personalities. Much of Ueno’s music is “person-specific” wherein the intricacies of performance practice are brought into focus in the technical achievements of a specific individual fused, inextricably, with that performer’s aura. In an increasingly digitized world, “person-specificity” takes a stand against the forces that render all of us anonymous. It also runs counter to the neo-colonial tradition of transportability in Western Classical music. As an outsider, Ueno has been drawn to sounds that have been overlooked or denied. His artistic mission is to push the boundaries of perception and challenge traditional paradigms of beauty.

Leading performers and ensembles around the world have championed his music. Ken’s piece for the Hilliard Ensemble, Shiroi Ishi, was featured in their repertoire for over ten years, with performances at such venues as Queen Elizabeth Hall in England, the Vienna Konzerthaus, and was aired on Italian national radio, RAI 3. Another work, Pharmakon, was performed dozens of times nationally by Eighth Blackbird during their 2001-2003 seasons. A portrait concert of Ken’s was featured on MaerzMusik in Berlin in 2011.

As a vocalist, Ueno is known for inventing extended techniques and has performed as soloist in his vocal concerto with orchestras in Boston, New York, Warsaw, Vilnius, Bangkok, Sacramento, Stony Brook, Pittsburgh, and North Carolina.

As a sound artist, his installations have been commissioned and exhibited by museums and galleries in Beijing, Guangzhou, Taipei, Mexico City, Art Basel, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong. Last fall, he created evening-long installation performances for the Osage Gallery, Tai Kwun, and at the FreeSpace. One of his largest projects, Daedalus Drones, an installation (a fence-labyrinth housing a swarm of flying drones choreographed for performance) installed at the Asia Society of Hong Kong was featured on the New Vision Arts Festival.

Ueno currently serves as a Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He has been invited to present lectures on his music at over a hundred peer institutions, including Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Columbia, Peabody, Stanford, Northwestern, USC, UCLA, Seoul National University, Beijing Central Conservatory, the University of Hong Kong, the Geneva Conservatory, and the Paris Conservatory. As an author, Ueno’s writings have been published by the Oxford Handbook, the New York Times, Palgrave Macmillan, and Wiley & Sons. He holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University and an M.M.A. from the Yale School of Music, and his bio appears in The Grove Dictionary of American Music.


The event is free and open to the public and will take place in person at BAMPFA's Osher Theater with a simultaneous livestream via Zoom's Webinar. Please contact info.bcnm [at] with requests or questions.

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