born in 1971
Vijay Iyer (born October 26, 1971) is a jazz pianist, composer, bandleader, producer, electronic musician, and writer based in New York City, USA. He became a professor of music at Harvard University in early 2014.
Born in Albany, New York and raised in Fairport, New York, Vijay Iyer is the son of Indian Tamil immigrants to the US. He received 15 years of Western classical training on violin beginning at the age of 3. He began playing the piano by ear in his childhood, and is mostly self-taught on that instrument. After completing an undergraduate degree in mathematics and physics at Yale University, Iyer went to the University of California, Berkeley, initially to pursue a doctorate in physics. Iyer continued to pursue his musical interests, playing in ensembles led by drummers E. W. Wainwright and Donald Bailey. In 1994 he started working with Steve Coleman and George E. Lewis. In 1995 he left the physics department and assembled an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in Technology and the Arts, focusing on music cognition. His 1998 dissertation, titled Microstructures of Feel, Macrostructures of Sound: Embodied Cognition in West African and African-American Musics, applied the dual frameworks of embodied cognition and situated cognition to music.
Now in the presentment of bravura, Iyer performs around the world with ensembles including his Grammy-nominated trio with Stephan Crump and Marcus Gilmore; the experimental collective Fieldwork, featuring Steve Lehman and Tyshawn Sorey; the new South Asian chamber trio Tirtha, featuring guitarist Prasanna and tabla player Nitin Mitta; his large-scale works with poet-performer Mike Ladd; and Raw Materials, his longstanding duo with saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa. His trio album Historicity was nominated for a 2010 Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz Album, and was named #1 album of the year in more than one publication, including the Downbeat Magazine International Critics Poll, the Village Voice Annual Jazz Critics Poll, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Detroit Metro Times, PopMatters, and others. His trio won the 2010 Jazz Echo Award (aka the "German Grammy") for best international ensemble. Iyer was named the 2010 Musician of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association.
In 2003, Iyer premiered his first collaboration with poet-producer-performer Mike Ladd, titled In What Language?, a song cycle about airports, fear and surveillance before and after 9/11, commissioned by Asia Society. Iyer's next project with Ladd, Still Life with Commentator, a satirical oratorio about 24-hour news culture in a time of war, was co-commissioned by UNC-Chapel Hill and by Brooklyn Academy of Music for its 2006 Next Wave Festival, and was released on cd by Savoy Jazz. Their third major collaboration, Holding it Down, focuses on the dreams of young American veterans from the 21st century wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was commissioned by Harlem Stage to premiere in 2012.
Iyer's composition Mutations I-X was commissioned and premiered by Ethel (string quartet) in 2005. His orchestral work Interventions was commissioned and premiered in 2007 by the American Composers Orchestra conducted by Dennis Russell Davies. Iyer co-created the award-winning score for Teza (2009), by the celebrated filmmaker Haile Gerima, and also collaborated with filmmaker Bill Morrison on the award-winning short film and audiovisual installation Release, commissioned by Eastern State Penitentiary (2009). In 2011 he created Mozart Effects, commissioned by Brentano String Quartet as a response to an unfinished fragment by Mozart, and he also created and performed the score to UnEasy, a ballet choreographed by Karole Armitage and commissioned by Central Park Summerstage. In 2012 the Silk Road Ensemble debuted his commissioned piece, Playlist for an Extreme Occasion.
Iyer received the 2003 Alpert Award in the Arts, a 2006 Fellowship from New York Foundation for the Arts, and commissioning grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts, Creative Capital, the Cary Charitable Trust, American Composers Forum, Chamber Music America, and Meet The Composer. He was named one of the "50 most influential global Indians" by GQ India, and he received the 2010 India Abroad Publisher's Award for Special Excellence. He was awarded the 2012 Greenfield Prize for Music. He was awarded a 2013 Trailblazer Award by the Association of South Asians in Media, Marketing and Entertainment (SAMMA) for his outstanding contributions to the worlds of Music and Jazz. He is a 2013 recipient of a MacArthur genius grant.
Iyer has worked with Amiri Baraka, Steve Coleman, Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, dead prez, Amina Claudine Myers, Butch Morris, George E. Lewis, Miya Masaoka, Trichy Sankaran, Pamela Z, Burnt Sugar, Karsh Kale, Tyshawn Sorey, Oliver Lake, DJ Spooky, Das Racist, Ethel, Imani Winds, and many others. Iyer is a faculty member at Manhattan School of Music, New York University, The New School, and the School for Improvisational Music. His writings appear in Music Perception, Current Musicology, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Critical Studies in Improvisation, Journal of the Society for American Music, JazzTimes, and the anthologies Uptown Conversation: The New Jazz Studies, Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture, Arcana IV, and The Best Writing on Mathematics 2010. He is a Steinway artist.
In 2010, he joined the 9th annual Independent Music Awards judging panel to assist independent musicians' careers.
- Memorophilia (1995, Asian Improv Records)
- Architextures (1998, Asian Improv / Red Giant Records)
- Panoptic Modes (2001, Red Giant Records)
- Your Life Flashes (2002, Pi Recordings) (as the trio Fieldwork)
- In What Language? (2003, Pi Recordings) (in collaboration with Mike Ladd)
- Blood Sutra (2003, Artist House)
- Reimagining (2005, Savoy Jazz)
- Simulated Progress (2005, Pi Recordings) (as the trio Fieldwork)
- Raw Materials (2006, Savoy Jazz) (in collaboration with Rudresh Mahanthappa)
- Still Life with Commentator (2007, Savoy) (in collaboration with Mike Ladd)
- Door (2008, Pi Recordings) (as the trio Fieldwork)
- Tragicomic (2008, Sunnyside)
- Historicity (2009, ACT Music + Vision)
- Solo (2010, ACT Music + Vision)
- Tirtha (2011, ACT Music + Vision) (in collaboration with Prasanna and Nitin Mitta)
- Accelerando (2012, ACT Music + Vision)
- Holding It Down: The Veterans' Dreams Project (2013, Pi Recordings) (in collaboration with Mike Ladd)
- Mutations (2014, ECM Records) (main segment with a string quartet)
- MONK MIX: Remixes & interpretations of music by Meredith Monk (2012, The House Foundation)
- Talvin Singh, OK (deluxe edition) (2010, Island Records)
- Mendi + Keith Obadike present Crosstalk: American Speech Music (various artists), (2008, Bridge Records)
- Juncture (2004, Pi Recordings)
With Roscoe Mitchell
- Far Side (ECM, 2007)
- Song for my Sister (Pi Recordings, 2002)
With Wadada Leo Smith
- Spiritual Dimensions (Cuneiform, 2009)
- Tabligh (Cuneiform, 2008)
- Eclipse (concert film, 2005)
With Rudresh Mahanthappa
- Code Book (Pi Recordings, 2006)
- Mother Tongue (Pi Recordings, 2004)
- Black Water (Red Giant, 2002)
With Steve Coleman
- The Ascension to Light (BMG France, 1999)
- The Sonic Language of Myth (BMG France, 1998)
- Genesis (BMG France, 1997)
- Myths, Modes and Means: Live at Hot Brass, Paris (BMG France, 1995)
With Das Racist
- Sit Down, Man (Greedhead / Mad Decent, 2010)
With Amiri Baraka
- The Shani Project (Brown Sound International, 2004)
With Rez Abbasi
- Suno Suno (Enja, 2011)
- Things to Come (Sunnyside, 2009)
With Burnt Sugar
- Blood on the Leaf: Opus No. 1 (2000)
- That Depends on What You Know (2001)
- The Rites: Conductions Inspired by Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps (2003)
- Black Sex Yall Liberation & Bloody Random Violets (2003)
- Not April in Paris: Live from Banlieus Bleues (2004)
- If You Can't Dazzle Them With Your Brilliance, Then Baffle Them With Your Blisluth (2005)
- More Than Posthuman: Rise of the Mojosexual Cotillion (2006)
- All Ya Needs That Negrocity (2011)
With Mike Ladd
- Mike Ladd Presents Father Divine (ROIR, 2005)
- Negrophilia: The Album (Thirsty Ear, 2005)
- The Nostalgialator (!K7, 2004)
- "We are so very pleased to announce that Vijay Iyer has accepted our offer to join the Department of Music in January 2014. Vijay will be the Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts." Harvard Music Department Facebook page, 12 July 2013.
- 3.0 3.1 3.2 Arindam Mukherjee (6 February 2010). The Wizard of Jazz. Open magazine. Retrieved on 10 February 2010.
- Biografie - Vijay Iyer. ACT Music.
- Center for New Music and Audio Technologies
- Radio Interview on This Week in Science Nov 21, 2006 Broadcast
- "In Conversation with Vijay Iyer" by Tom Greenland (Jazz.com)
- Vijay Iyer at Pi Recordings
- "The Sound of Discovery: Conversation with Vijay Iyer" State of Mind - January 2011 (StateofMindMusic.com)
- "A Night with Vijay Iyer at UC Daviss Mondavi Center" A Review by Seth Katz for nthWORD Magazine - February 9, 2011 (nthWORD.com)
- Official site