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Vijay Iyer: Part 2-2

By Published: June 2, 2005
AAJ: "Taking Back the Airplane is my current favorite on the album. For a while I was obsessed with "De Gaulle, as is my wife.

VI: I really like that one too. Actually, "De Gaulle is Mike's favorite.

AAJ: "Taking Back the Airplane, though—I like the horn ensembles on it. And for some reason, when I hear those arranged horn harmonies, it makes me wonder if you've thought about doing large-ensemble composition.

VI: I've thought about it; I guess the opportunity hasn't quite arisen yet and in a way, also, I'm into these [laughing] manageable-size ensembles! I guess the largest I've written for is a nonet. And I actually arranged some of my older pieces for the Columbia Jazz Ensemble... that was the most recent thing that I did. Yeah, it's something I'd like to do; I guess I'm waiting for the right opportunities. Actually, this guy from Finland contacted me and said that they have a wind ensemble that he wants me to write for. So maybe it'll happen.

AAJ: So, you've got this upcoming Still Life With Commentator project with Mike Ladd, and this brand-new quartet album—

VI: Yeah, between this [quartet album and work] and the Fieldwork project and the new stuff with Mike—and Rudresh and I have had this ongoing duo since '96. We have this pretty enormous body of material.

AAJ: And not a note's been officially released.

VI: Yeah, we're both hoping to get something out by early '06. The other thing: I did this piece with Ethel, a string quartet—they're sort of like the new Kronos Quartet. They're great, they're one of the top quartets that I've ever heard. I did a piece with them where I was playing piano and electronics; I sampled them and created all this stuff from samples of them and of their playing written material and some open-ended stuff where they have to make decisions in real time based on some constraints, deal with the written material in a more improvisational way. So that's this piece called "Mutations which—well, I was just talking to John Zorn, and he wants to put this out on his classical music series. And then [I'm working] as a sideman with Wadada Leo Smith, occasionally Roscoe [Mitchell] still, also occasionally with [poet/activist] Amiri Baraka. Also with Greg Tate's band Burnt Sugar, I do that sometimes, and also still playing in Rudresh [Mahanthappa]'s band, which is really exciting too. And I'm developing this body of stuff for solo piano; I'm doing a solo concert at The Stone, which is this new, little spot in New York that Zorn opened. So that'll be fun; that's at the end of July. And this project with Ladd, we're just building piece by piece: I'm doing a kind of experiment with an ensemble at the end of August: it's me and Okkyung Lee, who's a great, amazing cello player, and Pamela Z, the experimental vocalist from San Francisco, and Guillermo Brown, who's been playing electronic percussion. We'll be dealing with some of these texts from Still Life, almost like a sectional warmup ensemble experiment for that project. And Mike and I are doing some more duo gigs as another side of Still Life later in September. We're trying to space it out so that we really get a chance to develop it. We started with this gig at BAM that's in a year-and-a-half, so we're trying to figure out how we can really ramp up to it in a way that's not forced. I have faith in the process, so something's going to come out of it.

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