Department of Music
Department of African and African American Studies
Composer-pianist-scholar Vijay Iyer was named JazzTimes’s 2017 Pianist of the Year, DownBeat Magazine's Artist of the Year for 2016, 2015, and 2012, a 2016 United States Artists Fellow, a 2013 MacArthur Fellow, and a 2012 Doris Duke Performing Artist. The New York Times observes, “There’s probably no frame wide enough to encompass the creative output of the pianist Vijay Iyer.” Iyer has released twenty-three albums covering diverse terrain, most recently for the ECM label. The latest include his sextet recording Far From Over, included among Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2017; A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke (2016), a series of duets with AACM trumpeter-composer and experimental music legend Wadada Leo Smith; Break Stuff (2015), named one of the albums of the year in Time, the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and NPR, featuring the Vijay Iyer Trio, hailed by PopMatters as “the best band in jazz”; Mutations (2014), featuring Iyer’s music for piano, string quartet and electronics, which “extends and deepens his range... showing a delicate, shimmering, translucent side of his playing” (Chicago Tribune); and Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi (2014), “his most challenging and impressive work, the scintillating score to a compelling film by Prashant Bhargava” (DownBeat), performed by International Contemporary Ensemble and released on DVD and BluRay.
Iyer’s many collaborators include musical innovators Steve Coleman, Wadada Leo Smith, Roscoe Mitchell, Butch Morris, George Lewis, Reggie Workman, Oliver Lake, Amina Claudine Myers, Graham Haynes, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Rez Abbasi, Craig Taborn, Tyshawn Sorey, Ambrose Akinmusire, Liberty Ellman, Steve Lehman, Matana Roberts, Miya Masaoka, Pamela Z, Mari Kimura, Dead Prez, DJ Spooky, Himanshu Suri of Das Racist, HPrizm of Antipop Consortium, Karsh Kale, and Talvin Singh; filmmakers Haile Gerima, Prashant Bhargava, and Bill Morrison; choreographer Karole Armitage; poets Mike Ladd, Amiri Baraka, and Robert Pinsky; and novelist Teju Cole. His compositions have been commissioned and premiered by American Composers Orchestra, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, The Knights, International Contemporary Ensemble, A Far Cry, Bang on a Can All-Stars, The Silk Road Ensemble, Ethel, Brentano String Quartet, Imani Winds, So Percussion, and soloists Claire Chase, Matt Haimovitz, and Jennifer Koh. His concert works are published by Schott Music.
In 1998, Iyer earned an interdisciplinary Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, where his dissertation focused on embodied music cognition. He has published articles in Journal of Consciousness Studies, Wire, Music Perception, JazzTimes, Journal of the Society for American Music, Critical Studies in Improvisation, Harvard Design Magazine, the anthologies Arcana IV, Sound Unbound, Uptown Conversation, The Best Writing on Mathematics: 2010, and The Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies. In 2014 he was named the Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts at Harvard University. He has also served as Director of the International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music at The Banff Centre since 2013. He has been featured as Artist-in-Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Wigmore Hall (London), the Molde Jazz Festival (Molde, Norway), and Jazz Middelheim (Antwerp, Belgium), and served as Music Director for the 2017 Ojai Music Festival in southern California.