Video Presentation by Ken Ueno

Q & A with Ken Ueno & Takuro Mizuta Lippit

In his seminal article, "Improvisation After 1950", George Lewis illuminates how the process of exnomination impacted notions of improvisative musical practices in Western art music in the postwar era. Citing the media critic, John Fiske, Lewis reminds us that, "Exnomination is the means by which whiteness avoids being named and thus keeps itself out of the field of interrogation and therefore off the agenda for change." Exnomination also operates in music pedagogy in the United States in institutions of higher learning where the values of Western Classical music are so entrenched that those musical values are asserted, unchallenged, as universal norms for music, an invisible ground. A particularly excessive subarea is in the training of the voice, where the particularities of the performance practice of Western opera, continues to be promulgated as the standard. The consequences are many: a reinforcement of neocolonial hierarchies in musical values, the muting of non-Western sonic accents and traditions and bodies, as well as the potential harm to the body and psyche of the student singer. The physical molding (or neocolonial domestication) of a non-Western singer’s body into an instrument for Bel Canto singing is an example of what I call "corseting."

A recipient of the Rome Prize and the Berlin Prize, Ken Ueno, is a composer/vocalist/sound artist who is currently a Professor at UC Berkeley. Ensembles and performers who have championed Ken’s music include Kim Kashkashian and Robyn Schulkowsky, Wendy Richman, Greg Oakes, BMOP, Alarm Will Sound, Steve Schick and SFCMP, and Frances-Marie Uitti. Ken’s piece for the Hilliard Ensemble, Shiroi Ishi, was featured in their repertoire for over ten years. Another work, Pharmakon, was performed dozens of times nationally by Eighth Blackbird during their 2001 – 2003 seasons. As a vocalist, Ken specializes in extended techniques (overtones, throat-singing, multiphonics, extreme registers, circular singing) 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. His sound installations have been featured at MUAC (Mexico City), Beijing, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, the Shenzhen Bienniale, and Art Basel. Ken holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University. A monograph CD of three orchestral concertos was released on the Bmop/sound label. His bio appears in The Grove Dictionary of American Music.

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