Harmony in Diversity: AUMI Book Launch Celebrates Music, Inclusion, and Community

In a heartwarming celebration of music, inclusivity, and community, the Lawrence Public Library hosted the much-anticipated book launch party for Improvising Across Abilities: Pauline Oliveros and the Adaptive Use Musical Instrument on February 8th, 2024. The event, marked by enchanting performances, insightful discussions, and a diverse array of guests, left an indelible mark on everyone who attended.

Pre-pandemic ensemble panel sits at a table to discuss recent publication and experiences with AUMI

The festivities kicked off with a delightful spread of culinary treats provided by Bimi Bakery and Herman's Place. Attendees were treated to AUMI-themed cookies, a masterpiece from Bimi Bakery, and savory dishes from Herman's Place, including a delectable curried vegetable stew, barbeque, and a refreshing salad. The tantalizing aromas wafting through the room set the stage for an evening that would engage not only the senses but also the soul.

A descriptive way to explain the atmosphere of the night, yes, but nonetheless accurate. Thank you to the bakery and restaurant for helping feed guests!

Bimi Bakery cookies decorated as AUMI themed sitting in a tray

Upon entering the venue, guests were greeted by an awe-inspiring display of Lego art by Tami Albin, a librarian at the University of Kansas. Tami's art featured intricate Lego mini-fig pieces depicting people and various creatures engaged in the enchanting act of playing music with AUMI. The vibrant and creative Lego compositions added a visual layer to the celebration, underscoring the theme of harmony across diverse abilities.

Tami Albin's images of AUMI-themed LEGOs and papers sit on table near event entrance

The Panel Speaks on AUMI

Ranita Wilks, a passionate advocate for people with disabilities in Kansas and a stalwart supporter of AUMI since 2011, served as the charismatic emcee for the evening. Her warm and engaging presence set the tone for an evening that celebrated the power of adaptive music and the sense of community fostered by AUMI.

The spotlight then turned to the whole Pre-Pandemic Ensemble, who delivered a mesmerizing performance of "Saturn," a composition by Kip Haaheim, a retired KU Professor of Composition. The piece featured poetry by Julie Unruh, and Ranita Wilks provided an insightful introduction. The music was a poignant reminder of the creative prowess of AUMI and its ability to transcend conventional boundaries.

After the performance, Ranita explained the mechanics of AUMI and introduced Oliver Hall, who shared insights into the soundscape of "Saturn." Oliver revealed that all the sounds in the piece were derived from his respatialized recordings of the sonified planets from NASA, emphasizing the truly celestial origins of the music. Additionally, Oliver tantalizingly hinted at his upcoming CD, featuring planet sounds that promise to be a celestial auditory journey.

From all of this, it was clear that AUMI has had such a largely diverse and various impact on people of all backgrounds and abilities. It is the center of a constantly-adapting and changing interface that hinges on the foundation of inclusion and creativity. Anything is possible on AUMI--all types of sound, music, composition, movement, users, and more. And this panel's experiences were evidence enough of this conclusion.

Following the musical performance, discussion unfolded even further, featuring key figures from the AUMI community in Lawrence and contributors to the book. The panel, moderated by a representative involved in the book's creation, provided a platform for engaging conversations about the intersection of music, inclusivity, and technology.

Improvising Across Abilities Pauline Oliveros and the Adaptive Use Musical Instrument Book Cover

The panelists, including Ranita Wilks, Oliver Hall, Grace Leu, Michelle Heffner Hayes, Drew White, Sherrie Tucker, Ray Mizumura-Pence, Julie Unruh, and Jim Barnes of Lawrence Public Library (off-camera), shared their perspectives and experiences. The discussions delved into the transformative power of AUMI, its community partnerships, and the profound impact it has had on individuals with diverse abilities.

A particularly poignant moment arose when Michelle Heffner Hayes paid tribute to dancer and friend Melissa Monroe, who had passed away several years ago. Michelle acknowledged Melissa's sister and son, present at the event, and played a moving clip from Oliver Hall's documentary, "Kaleidoscope Communities: Improvised and Inclusive," featuring Melissa and others dancing with AUMI in a 2017 performance. Again, this demonstrated the influential community that AUMI has created, opening up space for vulnerability, friendship, and perseverance in the face of loss and hardship.

Interactive AUMI Demonstration and Audience Participation

Drew White took center stage to demonstrate the Adaptive Use Musical Instrument, showcasing its intuitive interface and highlighting its potential for musical improvisation. The audience was then invited to experience AUMI firsthand, with many eager participants joining in the musical exploration, assisted by seasoned AUMI improvisers.

The Raven, a local independent bookstore in Lawrence, added to the festive atmosphere by setting up shop at the event, making Improvising Across Abilities available to attendees. The book, born in the heart of Lawrence, found its place in the library, and now, in the hands of those eager to explore the rich tapestry of AUMI's journey. A massive thank-you to their contributions to this book launch!

A Community United: The Audience and Beyond

With an estimated 35-40 people in attendance, the event showcased the strong sense of community surrounding AUMI. Each person in the room, whether performer, panelist, or audience member, contributed to the harmonious celebration of music, inclusion, and the enduring spirit of AUMI. Thank you all for your attention, celebration, and participation.

The AUMI launch party this February was not just an event; it was a celebration of the bonds forged through music, the unwavering spirit of inclusivity, and the profound impact of technology on the creative process. As AUMI continues to resonate within the Lawrence community and beyond, this event stands as a testament to the transformative power of music and the enduring connections it fosters.

To purchase a copy or read the book online, please visit the University of Michigan Press website now! 

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