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13 Archived Comments


  • Joe Albano wrote on August 31, 2009 report

    Wow. Talk about a backhanded compliment.

  • John Kelman wrote on August 31, 2009 report

    It's been reviewed now as it was just released on ACT in Europe, the German label which only gets some titles distributed in the US. We'll feature another review from another writer (possibly yours truly) for the October date; but this is the complex issue of being an international website and dealing with labels that have different release schedules in different countries....

  • Craig Premo wrote on September 02, 2009 report

    Braxton's academic posturing comes with a knowing wink, IMO, while the same can't be said for Iyer...

  • John Philips wrote on September 03, 2009 report

    I dunno, I don't think Iyer himself makes this nearly as explicit as the review makes out - I've heard this CD and really like it, and any 'academic posturing' is done so pretty subtly in the context of the music, and the liner notes serve (as most of them do when they're written by the artist) to explain his motives behind the music, which might not be obvious to every listener. Not to criticise Chris' review, it's nicely balanced about the music itself and he does make valid point but maybe it's not one to lay solely at Iyer's feet.

    There's probably a discussion here about the validity of musicians explaining the point of their music versus the listener figuring it out by themselves but maybe that's for another time...either way, I'd personally recommend the album.

  • Dave Kaufman wrote on September 16, 2009 report

    Your last point is an interesting one. I found Brad Mehldau's liner notes to his first few albums to be insufferably pretentious. As silly as it sounds, I could not get past his writings to appreciate his music. Eventually I did and Mehldau has since become one of my favorite artists.

    Unquestionably, Vijay has thought much about his music and its place in the world. He has much to say on the matter and it's his right to say it. That said, Historicity has been available on Rhapsody (streaming music service) for a few days and I have had the chance to listen to it several times. This is a very beautiful and accessible album. Unquestionably the most accessible music he has ever recorded. Furthermore, it doesn't sound forced or compromised in the least. The Trio has never sounded better than it does on this album. There are no rigorous intellectual exercises here or academic posturings; simply great music.

    Mostly, I like reading what an artists has to say about his work. But I try not to let it define my listening experience.

  • Vijay Iyer wrote on October 02, 2009 report

    Dear all, Thanks for the interesting discussion. Personally I find it hugely inspiring when a musician annotates his or her own work. That's why I do it myself - not to "validate" the music but to document my own perspective on it at the time of its creation.

    As for their specific purpose in this case, they "explain" the title in the first few sentences. The rest is just a message from me to whoever takes the time to read it.

    Below is what I wrote for the album. You're welcome to discuss its pretentiousness. I hope at least some of you will reserve judgment until after reading it (and hearing the music to which it refers).

    Best wishes,


    "The starting-point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is 'knowing thyself' as a product of the historical process to date which has deposited in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory."

    - Antonio Gramsci, The Prison Notebooks

    There are two main meanings for "historicity":

    1) the quality of being historically accurate, as opposed to ficticious or legendary
    2) a condition of being placed in the stream of history; also: a result of such placement

    The second sense matters here: without a doubt, it's the past that's setting us in motion. With eons of recorded music ringing in our ears, and several years of intensive collaboration behind us, we take on pre-existing works by Andrew Hill, Julius Hemphill, Ronnie Foster, Stevie Wonder, Bernstein & Sondheim, and M.I.A..

    Most of these works have a disruptive quality that we aim to reproduce with the trio. (The exception is "Somewhere," which simply gets retold on our terms.) You could see our covers as tributes, but we've also tried to augment each song with a fragment of ourselves. Each cover becomes a conversation between the original work and something else entirely; the best word for it is versioning.

    I also borrow from my own past: earlier prototypes of "Trident" and "Sentiment" appeared on my first few albums, over a decade ago. And all of our music draws influence from the musical traditions of South Asia, Africa, and their diasporas (the Brown and Black Atlantic); perceptual illusions, mathematical equalities, and physical resonances; and everyday life in transcultural New York City.

    The coda sections of "Historicity" and "Helix" both consider our experience of time as a continuous dimension instead of a series of events. For psychologist J.J. Gibson, events are perceivable, but time is not; he contends that time's continuum is something we imagine, as our way of connecting the dots.

    Music, it seems, also connects -- carrying us smoothly across the tumult of experience, like water over rocks. That would make historicity the swirl of undercurrents, the reason we brace ourselves as we step into the river.

    Thanks for listening.

    vijay iyer

  • D Spencer Sieviec wrote on October 02, 2009 report

    I really dig your quote " rational structures become intuitive "- words to live by , nice tunes btw as well , you got me to sign up for an account . Cheers ! my best , Dan

  • Lucas Gillan wrote on October 02, 2009 report

    I say: it's Vijay's album, and he can write if he wants to. Artistic honesty should not be discouraged.

    And: "pretentious" is such an over-used word in modern music criticism; it has pretty much lost all meaning to me.

    BTW, I have Historicity and I love it.

  • Lyn Horton wrote on October 03, 2009 report

    No one need to comment ever on the validity of the artist's choices for accompanying his music with what he believes is a reasonable bridge from the music to the public's ears.

    Liner Notes can be zero words or many. It doesn't matter.

  • Sita Raghunathan wrote on October 06, 2009 report

    Vijay is exceptionally gifted, wellknown for his ability to balance his many talents with much grace. As has been commented elsewhere..."why not embrace the 'geeky past' and the beautiful music?" WHY NOT INDEED?!!

  • Greg Camphire wrote on October 06, 2009 report

    let's remember that "pretentious" has a second definition:
    2) making demands on one's skill, ability, or means; ambitious

    iyer certainly sounds ambitious on "historicity," both in the music and his words.

    i say, artists should be pretentious in this sense. as long as they back it up with the goods. iyer's got the goods.

  • Sarhanna Smith wrote on October 11, 2009 report

    Vijays new album, Historicity, is another stunning example of his strength as an artist. The accompaniment of liner notes is a gift to the listener, and in Vijays case it allows one to catch a glimpse of some of his inspiration for this project. Such notes are quite inspiring, as Vijay commented, and having access to an artists revelations is a privilege. (BTW, why is a music critic making a judgment about the musicians words, rather than simply focusing on his music?)

  • John Kelman wrote on October 12, 2009 report

    Sarhanna, who ever gave Chris the reductionist title "music critic"? He writes about new and old releases (and much, much more, in addition to his tremendous editorial work here at AAJ), and if a release includes liner notes that he feels warrant mention, then it's absolutely within his purview to write about 'em. You can agree or not, but suggesting it's beyond his scope is incorrect.