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Classical Music

Classical Classroom, Ep. 160: There Is No Spoon, With George E. Lewis

A composer and installation artist uses the many languages spoken in Houston as an instrument.

Dr. George E. Lewis
Dacia Clay
Dr. George E. Lewis


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Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Spoon boy: There is no spoon.

Neo: There is no spoon?

Spoon boy: Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends; it is only yourself.

– from The Matrix

Dr. George E. Lewis is the Neo of the classical music Matrix. He doesn’t have a great deal of use for preconceived notions of genre and form and he doesn’t have a lot of time to worry about definitions. That’s because he’s pretty darn busy making music and art. In addition to chairing the Composition Area at Columbia University, he’s a composer, an electronic performer, an installation artist, a trombone player and a scholar. In this episode of Classical Classroom, Dr. Lewis pauses for a moment to talk about his experimental classical music, and about what he’s been doing at Rice University with the James Turrell Sky Space using the things Houston is best known for: its crazy weather and its diverse people.

Music in this episode :

  • “Anthem” performed by Wet Ink Ensemble from Relay, by George Lewis
  • “Give It Up Or Turn It Loose” by James Brown from Sex Machine (live at Bell Auditorium, Augusta, Georgia)

Audio production by Todd “Typical Todd” Hulslander with digitization by Dacia Clay and assistance from Mark DiClaudio.

By the way, in this episode, Dr. Lewis talks about an art installation that he worked on with artist Carroll Parrott Blue for the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston called Whispering Bayou. Among the many cool things about this piece, in it, Lewis and Blue used recordings of Houstonians representing many of the 145 languages that are spoken in the city. Learn more here in this short video from Houston Public Media’s Arts InSight.