Photo of Ellen Waterman

Ellen Waterman

Full Professor, Helmut Kallmann Chair for Music in Canada

Degrees:Ph.D., M.A. (U. California, San Diego), B. Mus. (U. Manitoba)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 6060
Office:A812 Loeb Building

Ellen Waterman is both a music scholar with a strong focus on music in Canada and a flutist specializing in creative improvisation. She was appointed to the inaugural Helmut Kallmann Chair for Music in Canada at Carleton University in 2019 where she is developing a research program committed to investigating issues of diversity and decolonization of music in Canada through scholarship, research creation, and experiential learning. Previously, she taught at Trent University, the University of Guelph, and Memorial University of Newfoundland, where she was Dean of the School of Music from 2010-2015. Ellen was Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at McGill University (2008-9) and Bye-Fellow at Robinson College, University of Cambridge (2015-16).

Ellen’s interdisciplinary research interests range across improvisation, contemporary performance, ecology, sound, gender, and disability studies. Negotiated Moments: Improvisation, Sound and Subjectivity (co-edited with Gillian Siddall, Duke 2016) explores the ways in which subjectivity is formed and expressed through musical improvisation, tracing the ways the transmission and reception of sound occur within and between bodies in real and virtual time and across memory, history and space. Her current book project is a comparative ethnography of twelve music festivals based on fifteen years of research. Sounds Provocative: The Ecology of Experimental Music Performance in Canada works out from close readings of performances within the ecosystem of festivals, funding, and dissemination to explore broader issues of Canadian culture and identity.

Critical Improvisation Studies forms an important strand of Ellen’s work and she has been a core member of two SSHRC-funded international projects: Improvisation, Community and Social Practice (2007-2013) and the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (since 2013). She was a founding co-editor of the online, peer reviewed journal Critical Studies in Improvisation/Etudes critiques en improvisation. Together with an international group of artists and scholars, originally led by the great improviser and educator Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016), Ellen participates in developing the AUMI, an adaptive use musical instrument that facilitates inclusion in improvisational music making.

Ellen Waterman’s distinctive musical practice blends flute and vocalization. She studied flute with Jan Kocman, Douglas Stewart, and John Fonville and voice with Carol Plantamura. In the 1980s and ‘90s she performed in a number of R. Murray Schafer’s Patria series of environmental music theatre works and he composed the solo flute pieces Aubade and Nocturne (1996) for her. Her doctoral dissertation is an ethnography of Patria the Epilogue: And Wolf Shall Inherit the Moon. Ellen has been privileged to collaborate with an array of great improvisers including: Pauline Oliveros, Jesse Stewart, Ione, Eric Lewis, James Harley, Medea Electronique collective, Chris Chafe, Viv Corringham, Norman Adams, George Lewis, Nicole Mitchell, Miya Masaoka, Malcolm Goldstein, Jean Derome, Joane Hétu, Lori Freedman, Michael Waterman, and Michael Young. She has performed at national and international festivals and venues including Open Ears Festival of Music and Sound, the Guelph Jazz Festival, Suoni Per Il Popolo, Sound Symposium, and the Onassis Cultural Centre. Waterman has also been artist-in-residence for several festivals, including The Art of Immersive Soundscapes (U. Regina), Sound Travels Festival (Toronto), and the Chicago Creative Music Workshop (Chicago Jazz Festival). In 2014 and 2018 she participated in the Koumaria Residency in Sellasia, Greece. Ellen is represented on premiere recordings of works by Brian Ferneyhough (CRICD 652), Murray Schafer (CMCCD 8902, MW72) and ~spin~ duo (ADAPPS 15001).



Negotiated Moments: Improvisation, Sound and Subjectivity. Gillian Siddall and Ellen Waterman.  Duke University Press, 2016.

The Art of Immersive Soundscapes. Ed. by Pauline Minevich and Ellen Waterman; DVD curated by James Harley. University of Regina Press, 2013.

Sonic Geography Imagined and Remembered. Editor and Introduction. Peterborough: Frost Centre for Canadian Studies and Native Studies; and Manotick: Penumbra Press, 2002

Articles and Book Chapters (selected):

“Improvisation, Adaptability, and Collaboration: Using AUMI in Community Music Therapy.” Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Co-authored with Mark Finch and Susan LeMessurier-Quinn. 16.3 (2016).

“Witnessing Music from the New Wilderness.” Contemporary Music Review, special issue on Music and Ecology, 35.3, 2016. DOI:10.1080/07494467.2016.1239387

“Improvisation and the Audibility of Difference: Safa, Canadian Multiculturalism, and the Politics of Recognition.” Negotiated Moments: Improvisation, Sound and Subjectivity. Ed. Gillian Siddall and Ellen Waterman. Duke University Press, 2016.

The Ecology of Musical Performance: Towards a Robust Methodology.”  Co-authored with Alice Boyle.  Current Directions in Ecomusicology. Ed. Aaron Allen and Kevin Dawe. Routledge, 2015.

“Trust and Risk in Improvisation: Opening Statements.” Improvisation Studies Reader: Spontaneous Acts. Ed. Rebecca Caines and Ajay Heble. New York and London: Routledge, 2014. 59-62.

“Listening Trust: The Everyday Politics of George Lewis’s “Dream Team”.” Co-authored with Julie Dawn Smith. People Get Ready: The Future of Jazz is Now! Ed. Ajay Heble and Rob Wallace. Duke University Press, 2013. 59-87.

“Send and Receive: Technology, Embodiment and the Social in Sound Art” for The Art of Immersive Soundscapes.  Anthology and DVD.  Ed. Pauline Minevich and Ellen Waterman. University of Regina Press, 2013. 111-127.

“Say Who You Are Play Who You Are: Improvisation, Pedagogy, and Youth on the Margins.” Action, Criticism & Theory for Music Education, Special Issue: Music Education in Urban Contexts. Co-authored with Ajay Heble, Ashlee Consolo Willox, Rob Jackson, Melissa Walker. 10.1(2011): 114-131.

“Naked Intimacy: Eroticism, Improvisation, and Gender.”  Critical Studies in Improvisation/Etudes critique en improvisation Vol 4.2, 2008.

“Radio Bodies: Discourse, Performance, Resonance.” Radio Territories. Ed. Brandon LaBelle and Erik Granly Jensen. Errant Bodies Press, 2007. 118-153.

“Purposeful Play: Women Radiomakers in Community-Based Campus Radio in Canada.” Atlantis: A Women’s Studies Journal 30.2(2006): 76-87.