Ed Sarath is Professor of Music and Director of the Program in Creativity and Consciousness Studies at the University of Michigan. He is a flugelhornist, composer, author and activist in music studies reform and also burgeoning contemplative and consciousness studies movements in higher education. He is founder and president of the International Society for Improvised Music. His most recent book, Black Music Matters, critiques music studies reform conversations through artistic, pedagogical, social justice and spiritual lenses. He designed the U-M BFA in Jazz and Contemplative Studies degree, the first of its kind. His recording, New Beginnings, features the London Jazz Orchestra performing a program of his large ensemble compositions.
Aesthetics, Reason & Race: The Day (in May) When Philosophy Failed
This provocation interrogates the aesthetic-praxial divide that has long underpinned May Day Group aesthetic discourse. I challenge the divide as philosophically specious, disconnected from how many, if not most, real-world musicians think about what they do, and racially discriminatory—thus running starkly counter to May Day Group’s ostensible social justice commitment. I ground my critique of the MDG position in an emergent consciousness-based worldview called Integral Theory (IT) and posit an integral aesthetic paradigm that encompasses both the MDG composed-work model and what I call an improvisation-based “aesthetics of spontaneity.” I place particular emphasis on the exclusionary ramifications of the divide, and importance for healing thereof, that an African American aesthetics—for which literature is considerable—brings into focus.