Alternative Models of Community and Social Cooperation – A Talk by Ajay Heble (+ A Conversation with Eric Fillion)

Presented on 31 March 2023 as part of Music and Social Change in Canada and Curating for Change: The Work That Music Festivals Do in the World.

Ajay Heble is Director of the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation and Professor of English in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph. He is the author or editor of several books, and a founding co-editor of the journal Critical Studies in Improvisation/Études critiques en improvisation. He was the Project Director for Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice, a large-scale Major Collaborative Research Initiative, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

As the Founder and Artistic Director of the Guelph Jazz Festival, Heble has jolted the citizens of Guelph into an appreciation of improvised and avant-garde music and delighted aficionados from around the world with his innovative and daring programming. Under his visionary leadership, the Festival — winner of the prestigious Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts (2010), and a three-time recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award of the Arts (1997, 2000, 2001) — has achieved a rock-solid international reputation as one of the world’s most inspired and provocative musical events. Recent projects include two new books both published in 2013 by Duke University Press: People Get Ready: The Future of Jazz is Now (co-edited with Rob Wallace), and The Fierce Urgency of Now: Improvisation, Rights, and the Ethics of Cocreation (co-authored with Daniel Fischlin and George Lipsitz). As a pianist, he has released three CDs: Different Windows, a live recording of improvised music with percussionist Jesse Stewart (on the IntrepidEar label) and two recordings with his improvising quartet The Vertical Squirrels: Hold True / Accroche toi (on Ambiances Magnétiques) and Winter’s Gate (on Barcode Free).

Eric Fillion is adjunct professor and Buchanan postdoctoral fellow in the Department of History at Queen’s University. His research explores the social and symbolic importance of music, within countercultures and in Canadian international relations. His ongoing work on cultural diplomacy and Canadian-Brazilian relations builds on the experience he has acquired as a musician playing drums with Montreal-based bands in various studios and on international stages. It also informs his current research on the postwar cultural public sphere: his two main projects examine the emergence of the music festival phenomenon in Canada and the entangled sonic histories of diasporic social movements. An affiliate of the North American Cultural Diplomacy Initiative (NACDI), Eric Fillion is the founder of the Tenzier non-profit archival record label and co-editor of the journal Critical Studies in Improvisation/Études critiques en improvisation. He is the author of JAZZ LIBRE et la révolution québécoise: musique-action, 1967-1975 and Distant Stage: Quebec, Brazil, and the Making of Canada’s Cultural Diplomacy. His next book, titled Statesman of the Piano: Jazz, Race, and History in the Life of Lou Hooper (co-edited with Sean Mills and Désirée Rochat) will be published in September 2023.