Ken Ueno: Person Specificity and Physiovalence: Performance Practice Toward Decolonizing Classical Music

In his seminal article “Improvisation after 1950,” George Lewis illuminated how the process of exnomination impacted improvisative musical practices in Western art music in the postwar era. Citing the media critic John Fiske, Lewis reminded us, “Exnomination is the means by which whiteness avoids being named and thus keeps itself out of the field of interrogation and therefore off the agenda for change.” Noting how Western European classical music values are entrenched exnominatively in music pedagogy in the United States—with particular excessiveness in voice training, where the particularities of the performance practice of Western opera continue to be promulgated as the standard—composer, vocalist, and artist Ken Ueno moves toward creating a personal practice that seeks to “uncorset” musical practice and, by extension, claim artistic agency for those who do not belong to the dominant culture.

Rome Prize and Berlin Prize winner Ueno ( is a composer, vocalist, and sound artist whose music has been performed at venues and festivals around the world. Ueno holds a PhD from Harvard University, and his biography appears in The Grove Dictionary of American Music.