"I like to explore the audible traces of the human body in improvisational music through rhythm, gesture, and physicality. I also think about the situated character of musical activity—the role played by its sociocultural and physical environment. These notions of embodiment and situatedness help us to critique the neutral definition of music as organized sound. We should understand music as something closer to us: human bodies in meaningful process, sonorous acts in an information-rich context, the sonic trace of individual and collective action."

For pianist-composer-improvisor Vijay Iyer, creating music is fundamentally a process of inquiry. Drawing from South Asian, African, European and American music, and grounded in the experimental jazz tradition, he creates distinctive musical spaces in which symbolically charged improvisation, speculative sonic exploration, and musical narrative unfold. A prolific composer who writes in many formats—short and free sketches to long epic works—he views intensive collaboration as a crucible for aesthetic and conceptual growth and performs his pieces with a community of equally committed and original peers. His scholarly investigations on the role of embodiment in musical perception, cognition, and individual and cultural performance have fostered a vital synergy between his intellectual and political concerns and his on-going creative work.

Born 1971, Albany, New York
Lives in New York City
1998 Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley, special interdisciplinary program
in Technology and the Arts, focusing on music and cognitive science
1994 M.A., University of California at Berkeley, Physics
1992 B.S., Yale University, Mathematics & Physics
1994-present: On-the-job studies with Steve Coleman, E.W. Wainwright, Roscoe Mitchell, Butch Morris, Amiri Baraka, others
1977-present: Self-directed piano, improvisation, & composition studies
1975-1989: Private violin studies with Nancy Hunt, Oliver Steiner, others

2003 In What Language?, Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd, Pi Recordings (forthcoming)
2003 Blood Sutra, Vijay Iyer, Artists House Records (forthcoming)
2002 Your Life Flashes, Fieldwork, Pi Recordings
2001 Panoptic Modes, Vijay Iyer, Red Giant Records
1998 Architextures, Vijay Iyer, Asian Improv Records/Red Giant
1995 Memorophilia, Vijay Iyer, Asian Improv Records

2002 Creative Capital Foundation Project Grant (with poet Mike Ladd)
2002 New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) Individual Artists Grant
2002 The Jazz Gallery (NYC) Composers Series commission
2001 Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust Composer Commissioning Grant (with Mike Ladd)
2001 Rockefeller Foundation Multi-Arts Production Fund Grant for commissioned premiere in New York City (with saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa)
2000 Rockefeller Foundation Multi-Arts Production Fund Grant for commissioned premiere in Chicago (with Rudresh Mahanthappa and percussionist Trichy Sankaran)
1998 Arts International Touring grant for the Vijay Iyer Quartet’s performances in India

2004 Exploding the Narrative in Jazz Improvisation. In O'Meally, R., B. Edwards & F. Griffin, eds., Uptown Conversation: New Essays in Jazz Studies. New York: Columbia University Press (in press)
2002 Being Home: Jazz Authority and the Politics of Place. Current Musicology 71-73: 462-476
2002 Embodied Mind, Situated Cognition, and Expressive Microtiming in African-American Music. Music Perception 19(3): 387-414
1998 Microstructures of Feel, Macrostructures of Sound: Embodied Cognition in West African and African-American Music. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley
1997 Iyer, V., Bilmes, J., Wright, M., and Wessel, D. A Novel Representation for Rhythmic Structure. Proceedings of the 1997 International Computer Music Conference (San Francisco: International Computer Music Association), 97-100