Ritwik Banerji at SEM 2019

03 Feb, 2020

Ritwik Banerji at SEM 2019

The Society for Ethnomusicology held its 64th annual meeting in November in Bloomington, Indiana. Ritwik Banerji presented his paper, "Freedom? for Whom? Free Improvisation and the Phenomenology of Freedom" on the first day of the program.

Ritwik disputes the notion that free improvisation is inherently linked with an experience of liberation. Rather, there is a flexible scale of reactions ranging from frustration to pure artistry among current and former performers.

According to the abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in Chicago and Berlin, this paper examines the numerous ways in which performers currently or formerly active in free improvisation feel varying forms of ambivalence about the notion that this form of music making necessarily lends itself to an experience of freedom...

Thus the point is not to offer a pithy critique that free improvisation fails to enable an experience of freedom, but rather to ethnographically illustrate that the sensation of "freedom" on the phenomenological plane can be, but is not always, distinct from freedom as an objectively definable state of being in relation to power.​

See the annual meeting agenda here.