AUMI-Futurism: the Elsewhere and "Elsewhen" of (Un)Rolling the Boulder and Turning the Page


  • Jesse Stewart Carleton University
  • Sherrie Tucker University of Kansas
  • Peter A. Williams University of Kansas
  • Kip Haaheim University of Kansas


This article discusses two performances that used the movement-to-music technology known as the "Adaptive Use Musical Instrument" or AUMI to allow differently-abled participants to collaborate with one another: (Un)Rolling the Boulder: Improvising New Communities, a multimedia, mixed-ability improvisation that was staged at the University of Kansas in October 2013 and Turning the Page, an interdisciplinary musical theatre piece premiered in Ottawa, Canada in April 2014. We theorize these performances as examples of "AUMI-Futurism”, combining insights gleaned from two different sources: the Afrofuturist philosophy of composer, improviser, and bandleader Sun Ra, and the work of disability studies scholar Alison Kafer. This essay examines the collaborative, improvisatory processes that surrounded (Un)Rolling the Boulder and Turning the Page, focusing in particular on the role that the AUMI software played in imagining and performing new communities.


Adaptive Use Musical Instrument (AUMI); afrofuturism; disability studies; community music; music and technology; improvisation

Author Biographies

Jesse Stewart, Carleton University

Jesse Stewart is Associate Professor, School for Studies in Art and Culture, Carleton University and an award-winning composer, improviser, researcher, writer, and educator. His music has been documented on over twenty recordings including Stretch Orchestras self-titled debut album which received the 2012 Instrumental Album of the Year JUNO award (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy award). As a composer and improviser, he works primarily in the areas of new and experimental music, jazz, and free improvisation. He has performed and/or recorded with musicians including Hamid Drake, William Parker, Pauline Oliveros, Ernst Reijseger, Roswell Rudd, Evan Parker, Joe McPhee, Jandek, Michael Snow, David Mott, Pandit Anindo Chatterjee, Dong-Won Kim, and many others. His music has been performed at festivals throughout Canada, Europe, and the United States. He has been widely commissioned as a composer. His writings on music and art have appeared in such journals as American Music, Black Music Research Journal, Contemporary Music Review, and in numerous edited anthologies. In 2013, he received Carleton University’s Marston LaFrance Research Fellowship, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences senior award, intended for applicants with a very significant track record of outstanding research. In 2014, he was named to the Order of Ottawa, one of the city's highest civic honours.

Sherrie Tucker, University of Kansas

Sherrie Tucker (Professor, American Studies, University of Kansas) is the author of Dance Floor Democracy: the Social Geography of Memory at the Hollywood Canteen (Duke, 2014), Swing Shift: “All-Girl” Bands of the 1940s (Duke, 2000) and co-editor, with Nichole T. Rustin, of Big Ears: Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies (Duke, 2008). She is a member of two major collaborative research initiatives: International Institute of Critical Improvisation Studies and Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice (for which she served as facilitator for the Improvisation, Gender, and the Body research area) both funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She is a founding member of the Melba Liston Research Collective, a member of the AUMI (Adaptive Use Musical Instrument) research team of the Deep Listening Institute, and founding member of AUMI-KU InterArts, one of six member institutions of the AUMI Research Consortium. She was the Louis Armstrong Visiting Professor at the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University in 2004-2005, where she was a member of the Columbia Jazz Study Group. With Randal M. Jelks, she co-edits the journal American Studies. She serves with Deborah Wong and Jeremy Wallach as a Series Editor for the Music/Culture Series at
Wesleyan University Press.

Peter A. Williams, University of Kansas

Peter A. Williams served as project manager for the research group “Improvisation, Bodies, and Communities of Difference” at the University of Kansas in 2013 and is an affiliated researcher with AUMI-KU InterArts. His work has been published in the journal Critical Studies in Improvisation/Etudes critiques en improvisation (Vol. 11, 1-2, 2016), The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Thinking in Higher Education (Palgrave MacMillan, April 2015), the edited volume Bodies and Culture: Discourses, Communities, Representations, Performances (Cambridge Scholars, 2012) and the Encyclopedia of Jazz at His research examines mostly white performances of mostly black experimental music in locales associated with jazz history like Kansas City. He currently works as a library intern at the Curtis Institute of Music and the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. He is also an improvising bassist.

Kip Haaheim, University of Kansas

Kip Haaheim is a composer, musician, and digital artist currently living in Lawrence KS. After being a successful bassist, composer, and producer in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than twenty years he went back to school for a Masters degree at the University of Minnesota and then a doctorate at the University of Arizona. After teaching at the University of Arizona for two years he joined the faculty at the University of Kansas where he was tenured in 2007 and remains to this day. Haaheim has eclectic interests but spends most of his time composing and producing electro-acoustic music often involving multi-media. His collaboration with fellow composer Daniel Asia Sacred and Profane (Summitt Records 2002) is one of the first surroundsound audio DVDs ever released commercially. Since then he has created a substantial body of work comprising experimental videos, chamber music, audio installations, and various electroacoustic compositions. H also composed and produced the score for Ryan Jones's documentary film Fall from Grace (originally broadcast on the Showtime cable television network), and the score for Kevin Wilmott's feature film The Only Good Indian (which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and then had a significant theatrical release internationally). Both films are currently available on Netflix. In his electro-acoustic music he often mixes live musicians with computer-processed sounds and tends to favor live performance over fixed-media. Haaheim's most recent work often features improvisation and the use of non-traditional methods of controlling audio playback and processing.