Negotiated Moments: Improvisation, Sound, and Subjectivity
Ellen Waterman, 2016. "Improvisation and the Audibility of Difference: Safa, Canadian Multiculturalism, and the Politics of Recognition", Negotiated Moments: Improvisation, Sound, and Subjectivity, Gillian Siddall, Ellen Waterman
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Musical improvisation may be understood as the negotiation of subjectivities in the immediacy of the intercorporeal encounter. Safa is an intercultural Canadian musical ensemble that combines Iranian classical music, free jazz, and Latin percussion. The musicians are invested in maintaining their individual authenticity, but they characterize their performances as highly unified. Through a close analysis of one performance, this chapter examines improvisational techniques such as active listening, adaptability, code-switching, and reflexivity that can be applied to the broader arena of identity politics, particularly multiculturalism. Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor theorized multiculturalism in terms of a politics of recognition that engenders respect. Taylor’s critics claim that for the state, multicultural policy is about managing difference; however, for minorities seeking justice, multiculturalism means asserting difference to decenter power. Safa’s improvisation suggests that disenssus might, under conditions of active listening, be an ethical domain of intersubjectivity.