Pew Center for Arts and Heritage

Get our monthly newsletter in your inbox for the latest on cultural events, ideas, conversations, and grantmaking news in Philadelphia and beyond.

Main page contents
Holding It Down, Harlem Stage. Photo by Mark Millman Photography. Courtesy of Kimmel Center, Inc.

Questions of Practice: Composer and Pianist Vijay Iyer and Librettist Mike Ladd on Multivocality

Questions of Practice: Composer and Pianist Vijay Iyer and Librettist Mike Ladd on Multivocality

For a number of years, jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer and poet and librettist Mike Ladd have been collaborating on a series of multimedia performance works exploring American life in the post-9/11 era. Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project is the third work in this series, drawing from interviews conducted with veterans of color from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

When asked how this “multi-voice” work informs his concept of authorship, Iyer explained that “it gets beyond authorship [and] becomes more testimonial…It’s less about creating a finished product and more about bringing the observer into the frame.”

Composer and pianist Vijay Iyer and librettist Mike Ladd on multivocality. Filmed at The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage on February 10, 2016.

The Kimmel Center, Inc. will present the Philadelphia premiere of Holding It Down on April 22, 2016, with Center support.

MacArthur Fellow Vijay Iyer is a critically-acclaimed jazz pianist and composer who has produced over 20 albums and has collaborated with such musicians and ensembles as Steve Coleman, Wadada Leo Smith, Bang On A Can All-Stars, and Brooklyn Rider. A renowned music scholar, Iyer received an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in the cognitive science of music from the University of California, Berkeley, and is currently the Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the arts at Harvard University.

Poet, performer, and librettist Mike Ladd began his career as a spoken word poet after graduating from Hampshire College with a degree in English literature. He later found success as a rapper and hip-hop producer, releasing five solo albums, in addition to being the brain behind the fictitious music collectives Majesticons and Infesticons.