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World Premiere of Vijay Iyer's Crisis Modes at the Los Angeles Philharmonic

Jan. 01, 2019

World Premiere of Vijay Iyer's <em>Crisis Modes</em> at the Los Angeles Philharmonic

On January 15, Vijay Iyer's Crisis Modes receives its world premiere on the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Green Umbrella Series as part of a concert titled "The Edge of Jazz". The program, performed by the LA Phil New Music Group, led by conductor Paolo Bortolameolli, is curated by Jazz great, Herbie Hancock, in order to highlight "new works from some of the most important and forward-thinking composers currently working at the border between improvisational and compositional music." Vijay Iyer has recieved great praise and numerous accolades for his contributions to Jazz. Most recently, he was named 2018 "Jazz Artist of the Year" by the 66th Annual DownBeat International Critics Poll, and his namesake sextet won "Jazz Group of the Year" in the same poll.

Vijay Iyer says of Crises Modes:

"When we improvise, music happens in the present; it is how we commune with the forces around us, human and otherwise. By contrast, when we compose (which the great Wayne Shorter succinctly defined as “slowed-down improvisation”), we are sending a piece of music downstream, to be heard in the future. Like the other composers on this program, I find myself doing a lot of both: digging in to the “now,” with and among others, and plotting events for the “then,” for others. These are some ways that we make music for today and for tomorrow. 

I chose to approach this piece of music-for-tomorrow like a time capsule. There’s no denying it: we live in a time of struggle, with humanitarian and environmental crises gripping us every day. So what might I try to tell future audiences, besides “S.O.S.”? I want to communicate to them, and to you, what it is possible for us to imagine from this scarred planet at the dawn of 2019. Speculative fiction author N. K. Jemisin recently said in an interview, “My job is to help the world… That is what an artist’s job is -- to the degree that we can… It is an artist’s job to speak truth to power.” Crisis Modes offers a version of the present in which we call each other to action, push through a haze of denial, and organize ourselves as a coherent, constructive oppositional force. I don’t exactly know what that sounds like, but I can at least imagine how it feels, so this piece is my attempt to trace that affective landscape. 

The central episode, “Denial,” first came to me as a piano improvisation, which I then orchestrated for strings and percussion. I’d never done that before, but I felt that this would be a way to access an embodied, emotionally unfiltered musicality. I built outward from there, framing that section with a series of activations: various qualities of movement that trace their origins to South Asian and African descended musical systems and to the ambient rhythms of cities." 

Listen to Vijay Iyer's Time, Place, Action (2014) here:

(Time, Place, Action/Vijay Iyer/Vijay Iyer and the Brentano String Quartet)

To learn more about Vijay Iyer, visit:

Vijay Iyer
Crisis Modes (2018)
for percussion and strings
3 percussion: I: snare drum, 4 tom-toms, kick drum, 5 temple blocks, 5 wood blocks, tubular bells, handclaps, glockenspiel; II: 5 temple blocks, handclaps, claves, triangle, glockenspiel, bass drum, vibraphone, xylophone; III: 5 temple blocks, handclaps, bass drum, vibraphone, xylophone