Corey Mwamba

United Kingdom °1976
research interests: music, improvised music, phenomenology, Practice-as-research, musicology
affiliation: Birmingham Conservatoire

Born and based in Derby, Dr Corey Mwamba's commitment to jazz and improvised music in Britain and Ireland drives all aspects of his work, whether through making, presenting, promoting, or researching music. 

Corey predominantly plays vibraphone; he also plays dulcimer and uses audio processing software. He is recognised as a highly creative improviser and composer working across a wide range of jazz and contemporary music, having won a PRSF/Jerwood Foundation Take Five artist development award in 2007; was short-listed for the Innovation category in the BBC Jazz Awards in 2008; and received nominations for "Rising Star on Vibraphone" in the 62nd, 63rd, 64th, 65th, 66th, and 67th DownBeat Annual Critics' Polls.


Mwamba was granted an AHRC studentship for a Master of Research degree in Music at Keele University, for which he was awarded a distinction in 2014. Through this research, he developed new dark art, which is a notational and theoretical music system that takes early European medieval music practice as a starting point to create modern music. He was recently awarded a doctorate in Jazz Research at Birmingham City University, which was funded by a Midlands3Cities/AHRC studentship.

Corey Mwamba is the current presenter of Freeness, a weekly show on BBC Radio 3. The programme plays adventurous jazz and improvised music from across the globe.


how the vibraphone can be a mouth

  • the third masking (01/11/2018)
    Art object: Sound, artist(s)/author(s): Corey Mwamba
    The vibraphone is hidden by the keyboard and the drums. Why is it hidden? What/where is the vibraphone?
  • body (#as_the_tex_t) (01/03/2017)
    Art object: Composition, artist(s)/author(s): Corey Mwamba
    IMPROVISERS Richard Olatunde Baker – percussion Liran Donin – bass Robert Mitchell – piano Rachel Mussson – saxophones Corey Mwamba – vibraphone PERFORMANCES Leicester, May 2017: presentation at Midlands3Cities Research Festival (solo) Bucharest, June 2017: part of “21st Century Jazz - from tradition to the avant-garde" Artist in Residence” series (solo) London, June 2017: headline at LUME Festival (quintet) BASIS FOR THE WORK In more advanced studies of Western chamber instrumental performance, gesture is seen as important; in her work with pianists, Alexandra Pierce (2008) hoped to help them develop their expression of musical imagination using gestures. But discussions around the body in improvised music performance cause tensions, especially since they usually use fixed ideas around musical technique; Australian musician and theorist Bruce Johnson (1993) locates these fixed ideas within Modernist critical discourse. Critique of musicians such as Keith Jarrett (Elsdon, 2006) and Thelonious Monk (Givan, 2009; Feurzig, 2011) show how a musician’s bodily gestures can be interpreted as excessive, or only for visual effect (Jarrett); or, in Monk’s case, lacking proficiency, either wilfully or unintentionally. The piece rejects these ideas. As a solo work as well as in live performance with others, the body takes the position as a “store” of information for the other performers – it is an essential, skilled, dynamic text. When I play, my body is involved fully in the process of making music; and the music I make is rooted in a practice of jazz. My body and the vibraphone are the limits and agents of my musical eloquence and imagination. As the designer and performer of the piece, how the performing body is listened to is an ethical issue. I risk the body being viewed as spectacle instead of process, thus supplanting the music that I intend to create; and if this is not handled carefully for me, then I risk emotional pain to myself. There is the risk of the performing body being misinterpreted as a sign of primitivism or lack of civilisation. As Susan McClary and Robert Walser (1994) argue, "Those who have accepted such theories have often embraced African and African-American musics as sites where the body still may be experienced as primordial, untouched by the restrictions of culture. Yet although such attitudes may sometimes contribute to cross-over and to promoting the appreciation of black music, the cost is enormous. For in such accounts, the mind and culture still remain the exclusive property of Eurocentric discourse, while the dancing body is romanticized as what is left over when the burdens of reason and civilization have been flung away. The binary opposition of mind and body that governs the condemnation of black music remains in force; even when the terms are inverted, they are always ready to flip back into their more usual positions." Johnson has posited that jazz is “stored” in the performer; and that jazz is an aurally based music. Although I agree that the music I make has what Johnson described as "a necessary somatic component", I also think that the performer’s aesthetic partly resides, is informed by, and is continuously processed in the listener, who can also be the performer(s) of music – and while improvising, necessarily includes the performer(s). If this is the case, then what the listener pays attention to in music and how the listener pays attention to music is as important to the process of generating that music. The limits of making music in a social situation are not just located within a performer; those limits rely on a collective “paying attention” from the people inside the situation. CITED WORKS "Corey Mwamba/Dave Kane/Joshua Blackmore@Seven Jazz Leeds2" 21/4/13 Elsdon, Peter, ‘Listening in the Gaze: The Body in Keith Jarrett’s Solo Piano Improvisations’, in Music and Gesture, ed. by Anthony Gritten and Elaine King (Aldershot, England ; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006), pp. 192–207 Feurzeig, David, ‘The Right Mistakes: Confronting the “Old Question” of Thelonious Monk’s Chops’, Jazz Perspectives, 5 (2011), 29–59 Givan, Benjamin, ‘Thelonious Monk’s Pianism’, Journal of Musicology, 26 (2009), 404–42 Johnson, Bruce, ‘Hear Me Talkin’ to Ya: Problems of Jazz Discourse’, Popular Music, 12 (1993), 1 McClary, Susan, and Robert Walser (1994) ‘Theorizing the Body in African-American Music’. Black Music Research Journal 14/1: 75–84. Mwamba, Corey, ‘Dance/Music’, 2014 ———, ‘Is the First Thing’, 2013 Pierce, Alexandra, Deepening Musical Performance: The Theory and Practice of Embodied Interpretation (Bloomington, Ind.; Chesham: Indiana University Press ; Combined Academic [distributor, 2008]) credits