29 April, 2020Print
Vijay Iyer To Release Inwhatstrumentals: Music From In What Language? (Pi Recordings) May 8
Vijay Iyer will issue the previously unreleased instrumental version of 2003’s In What Language (Pi Recordings), his powerful, lauded collaboration with hip-hop artist, poet and producer Mike Ladd. INWHATSTRUMENTALS: Music From In What Language will be released May 8 on Pi Recordings. It will be available for pre-order via Bandcamp this Friday, May 1. All proceeds from the sale of this release will go to immigrant groups and communities of color disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
INWHATSTRUMENTALS is the second volume in Pi Recordings’ This is Now: Love In The Time Of COVID initiative, in which 100% of the revenue goes to the artist. The artist decides how the funds are dispersed. Those that need to supplement lost income can. Those who are working can distribute the funds as they see fit. The release is also timed to Bandcamp’s May 1 initiative of waiving their fees to support artists.
In What Language was created in post-9/11 New York City. The transformation of airports in particular from what had been innocent spaces of encounter and adventure to a hotspot for anti-Muslim sentiments and the hyperpolicing of brown bodies hit home for Iyer and Ladd. They revert back to these firsthand experiences in this project, inspired by airports stories of their own and others. In their original 8.3 out of 10 album review, Pitchfork said: "What might make In What Language? truly important...is that it's focused intently on probing social issues in meaningful ways."
Says Iyer: “A few weeks into lockdown in the Plague of 2020, as we took shelter from danger, loss, and uncertainty, Seth Rosner at Pi Recordings asked if I might be willing to offer some old or new music to the world. As it happened, I’d been thinking back to an earlier time of crisis, and how we had managed to make art in the face of it.” Read his full statement below.
Iyer will perform remotely for a number of upcoming events as well, from quarantine at home in New York City.
Monday April 27 - San Jose Jazz Festival - Iyer performed from home, watch the livestreamed performance on Facebook here: https://bit.ly/3aGC113
Sunday May 3 - Bang On a Can Marathon - Iyer will perform at 3:30PM ET: https://marathon2020.bangonacan.org
Saturday May 9 - Anthony Tidd's Act4Music Festival - Iyer will perform at 2:00PM ET: https://act4music.org/
Friday May 15th - Anthony Tidd’s Act4Music Festival - Iyer will be curating this event and performing in tribute to his friend and collaborator Prashant Bhargava on the 5th anniversary of his passing: https://act4music.org/
Statement from Iyer:
A few weeks into lockdown in the Plague of 2020, as we took shelter from danger, loss, and uncertainty, Seth Rosner at Pi Recordings asked if I might be willing to offer some old or new music to the world. As it happened, I’d been thinking back to an earlier time of crisis, and how we had managed to make art in the face of it.
Poet-producer Mike Ladd and I created In What Language? in 2003, in post-9/11 New York City. We were just coming to terms with the facts on the ground, which today seem frighteningly ordinary: mounting intolerance and hate crimes against Muslims, Arabs, Sikhs, and other nonwhite people; traumatic raids of immigrant communities by the INS (later Homeland Security); the prospect of endless, amoral war waged under false pretenses; the callous neoliberal agendas of globalization and disaster capitalism; and an unprecedented power grab enacted under cover of jingoism and feigned incompetence.
For us as travelers of color, the swift transformation of international airports made it all too plain. These formerly optimistic spaces of encounter and adventure swiftly devolved into irrational zones of anxiety, suspicion, surveillance, and the hyperpolicing of Black and brown bodies, even as the labor force in these spaces mostly comprised the same people being surveilled. “People just disappear,” as one interviewee said.
I wrote this music to sound out the airport’s vexed zones of light and darkness, and the shifting human relationships to them. We built each piece for a real person - either Mike himself (Colors I-IV), or someone he met in an airport and brought to our ear via his lyric. Each soundscape became a space for that person to stretch out and be heard, to move, breathe, and live anew.
Something about 2020’s rolling tragedy has led me back to these old, haunted, nearly empty rooms of sound. In 2003 I hadn’t imagined that this music, so tied to its original context, could mean something seventeen years later. In the darkness of that moment, we weren’t so sure that the world would hold together for this long. But somehow back then, Scotty Hard and I chose to preserve these instrumental mixes anyway, setting them aside for a rainy day.
And that is the lesson to myself and anyone else caught up in a seductive pessimism about our possible futures. In precarious times, art-making becomes a leap of faith, born of a belief that whenever that next rainy day comes, we will still be here, with an umbrella, ready to face it.
April 24, 2020
InWhatStrumentals: Music from In What Language? (Pi Recordings)
- The Color of My Circumference I
- The Density of the 19th Century
- Terminal City
- Three Lotto Stories
- The Color of My Circumference II
- Iraqi Businessman
- Taking Back the Airplane
- The Color of My Circumference III
- In What Language
- The Color of My Circumference IV
- Plastic Bag
Vijay Iyer – piano, keyboards, electronics, production, mixing, liner notes
Mike Ladd - co-production, synth, drum programming
Rudresh Mahanthappa – alto saxophone
Ambrose Akinmusire – trumpet
Dana Leong – cello, flugelhorn, trombone
Liberty Ellman – guitar
Stephan Crump – double bass
Trevor Holder – drums