“As a young musician, you have to master your craft while simultaneously discovering what you want your art to mean in the world at large,” says Darcy James Argue. “That's what it should mean to be a student at The New School, and that's the challenge we present to students.” To Argue, a Guggenheim Fellow in Music Composition and a faculty member at the School of Jazz, part of the College of Performing Arts within The New School, music offers performers a powerful tool for responding to the present moment.
Argue teaches music theory to Jazz students. With his curriculum, he strives to inspire students to hone their talents and find ways to put them to use. Argue finds jazz students in particular to be intellectually curious, eager to connect to the world around them and open to engaging creatively with it. And in his experience, the College of Performing Arts affords students a rare opportunity to consider the context and meaning behind their art. This, he says, is essential but is seldom taught at traditional conservatories.
The university's historical commitment to social progress and its innovative yet pragmatic approach to education (which Argue refers to as a “force” in academia) motivated him to join the faculty. He sees The New School's forward-looking perspective reflected in the reorganization of the College of Performing Arts, in which renowned schools of drama, jazz, and classical music coexist. Here, performing arts students are encouraged to collaborate with peers across disciplines. Argue says, “So often these fields are separated, but there's a lot of interesting things happening at the intersection of those worlds. There's an opportunity to bring them together in the classroom.”
An understanding of music as a powerful force in the world underlies Argue's pedagogy and his exceptional professional career. He is known for collaborating with artists outside of his discipline to create multidimensional performances that are politically charged, expansive, and creatively robust. Argue recently joined writer and director Isaac Butler and filmmaker Peter Nigrini in creating a live multimedia performance entitled Real Enemies. Argue's 18-piece big band, Secret Society, performs his original score while multiple screens flood the audience with a dizzying array of video imagery, immersing them in a paranoid world of intertwining conspiracies. Argue describes the work, which has also been released as a GRAMMY-nominated album on New Amsterdam Records, as examining “conspiratorial thinking as a distinct political ideology.”
As a School of Jazz instructor, Argue looks forward to creating space for young musicians to master the skills and tools that will allow them to further their own expressive goals in a world that needs informed and engaged artists - whether it knows it or not.