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Composer George Lewis Releases World Premiere Recording Of Rainbow Family On Carrier Records

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The tracks were recorded during three days of live performances that took place in May of 1984.

Composer George Lewis Releases World Premiere Recording Of Rainbow Family On Carrier Records

On Friday, October 30, 2020, composer George Lewis releases the 1984 recording of his Rainbow Family, one of the first live electronics works ever performed at the Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM), on Carrier Records. The tracks were recorded during three days of live performances that took place in May of 1984, the culmination of two years of sustained research and creative work in fulfillment of an IRCAM commission.

The 1984 Rainbow Family performances, described as a "virtual orchestra," featured between one to four human improvisors performing with three networked Apple II computers, which performed on three of the then-new Yamaha DX-7 synthesizers. Audio input from the instrumentalists - four of the finest practitioners on their instruments: French contrabassist Joëlle Léandre, American soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, and multi-instrumentalist Douglas Ewart, and British guitarist Derek Bailey - went to analog pitch and envelope-following hardware, which generated voltage values that were converted to digital form. This input information was collected by one computer and distributed over a MIDI-like network to the others; each machine analyzed the data locally and created its own responses to what it "heard," as well as generating and developing original material with no necessary direct relationship to the input.

George Lewis says, "In all probability, this was the first commission from IRCAM for what were then called 'microcomputers' (small systems) as well as the first that involved so-called improvising computer programs... In this kind of work, the improvised musical encounter is experienced as a sonic negotiation between musicians, some of whom are people and others not. Any entity operating in this conceptual space would deal with issues of behavior, communication and intersubjectivity... Interactive computer music can provoke questions that encompass not only technological or music-theoretical interests but philosophical, political, cultural and social concerns as well... Rainbow Family was an important point of departure for my computer-aided inquiry, over more than forty years, into agency, communication, subjectivity, listening, intentionality, social responsibility, and freedom."

About George Lewis:

George Lewis is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University, where he serves as Area Chair in Composition and Faculty in Historical Musicology. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, Lewis's other honors include a MacArthur Fellowship (2002) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015), a Doris Duke Artist Award (2019), a United States Artists Walker Fellowship (2011), an Alpert Award in the Arts (1999), and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. A member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, Lewis's work in chamber music, orchestral, operatic, and improvisational forms, as well as electronic and computer music and interactive multimedia installations, is documented on more than 150 recordings.

His work has been presented by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Dal Niente, London Philharmonia Orchestra, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart, Musikfabrik, Mivos Quartet, London Sinfonietta, Spektral Quartet, Talea Ensemble, Ensemble Pamplemousse, Wet Ink, JACK Quartet, and others, with commissions from American Composers Orchestra, International Contemporary Ensemble, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, 2010 Vancouver Cultural Olympiad, Ensemble Either/Or, Turning Point Ensemble, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, IRCAM, Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, and others. Lewis's music is published by Edition Peters.

Lewis has served as Fromm Visiting Professor of Music, Harvard University; Ernest Bloch Visiting Professor of Music, University of California, Berkeley; Paul Fromm Composer in Residence, American Academy in Rome; Resident Scholar, and Center for Disciplinary Innovation, University of Chicago. His book, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press, 2008) received the American Book Award and the American Musicological Society's Music in American Culture Award; Lewis was elected to Honorary Membership in the Society in 2016. Lewis is the co-editor of the two-volume Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies (2016), and his opera Afterword (2015) has been performed in the United States, United Kingdom, and the Czech Republic. Lewis holds honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Edinburgh, New College of Florida, and Harvard University. Learn more at

Rainbow Family Track List

George Lewis (b. 1952) - Rainbow Family (1984)
1. Spoken Introduction by George Lewis [0:48]
2. With Joelle Leandre [7:55]
3. With Derek Bailey [7:47]
4. With Douglas Ewart [11:43]
5. With Steve Lacy [4:38]
6. With Douglas Ewart and Derek Bailey [8:53]
7. With D. Ewart, J. Leandre, D. Bailey, S. Lacy [19:46]

Douglas Ewart, bass clarinet, flute, and Ewart bamboo flute
Joëlle Leandre, contrabass
Derek Bailey, electric guitar
Steve Lacy, soprano saxophone

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