Ham-Handed: lecture recital for pianists, live and on screen, and captions

Wednesday 24 April 2019, 4.00PM

Speaker(s): Dr Steve Potter (Guildhall School of Music and Drama)

This lecture recital is growing out of research I began as a Fellow at Cornell University's Society for the Humanities in 2015-16, in which I reflected on my role and possibilities for ethical artistic statement as a ‘Euro-American’ trained primarily in a ‘Western’ art music that has long drawn material from outside of itself in order to perpetuate itself. The theoretical background for this reflection is Georgina Born's seemingly unintentional proposition of an ethical double-bind for subjects constituted as Westerners in her contribution to the influential Western Music and Its Others: if they engage with their Other they are cultural appropriators, if they disengage they are protectors of racial purity. I identify a solution to her problematic within the same introductory chapter, in a formulation by her co-editor David Hesmondhalgh, who speaks more positively of the 'vicarious exploration of identities' through music. I also propose it is more productive to think from the position of mixture, and in this performance I think/perform alongside Fred Moten's poetic theoretical text, In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition, which in turn thinks alongside the work of free jazz pioneer Cecil Taylor.

I am motivated here by the sense that today there's a pervasive instinct to avoid talking about race except where it concerns one's first-person experiences. Although this has grown out of politeness and sensitivity, it is now taken to an extreme that takes apartness for granted and thereby intensifies the fissures. I want to oppose this. Instead this piece will encourage an appreciation of how racial identities are formed with and through each other. My hope is that this artistic intervention could respectfully open up some conversation topics that have become taboo but which, I think, still need to happen. We would hope to have plenty of time for questions and discussion following the lecture recital.


Dr Steve Potter is an American musician, composer and researcher based in London. His artistic work integrates instrumental music & noise, political speech, singing and movement, into complex yet folksy performances. In 2015-16 Steve was a Fellow at Cornell University's Society for the Humanities and taught at Auburn Correctional Facility through the Cornell Prison Education Program. Steve's research focuses on how political metaphors and techniques of power play out in musical practices, particularly those interested in distancing themselves from traditional hierarchies. His article, ‘Cage and Foucault: Musical Timekeeping and the Security State’ is forthcoming in Theatre, Performance, Foucault! (2019, Manchester University Press). He teaches composition and music theory at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Location: Rymer Auditorium