New York jazz pianist Vijay Iyer was one of 24 individuals to receive a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship on September 25. The fellowships are given to individuals across a wide range of fields, ranging from the arts to astrophysics. Iyer and classical pianist Jeremy Denk were the only two musicians among this year's fellows.
"[Ayer creates] a new conception of jazz and American creative music through an eclectic oeuvre that includes compositions for his own and other ensembles, collaborations across multiple genres and disciplines, and scholarly research on the act of listening," the foundation wrote. "An ardent investigator of musical communities, practices, histories, and theories, he mines core rhythmic, melodic, and structural elements from a wide range of sources to construct richly varied, improvisation-driven solo and ensemble music."
If we may be so bold as to name our favorite album from the pianist, the 2011 album Tirtha allowed him to combine his piano playing with guitar and tabla for a great Indian-American hybridization, truly an example of "mining aside range of sources."
Iyer's also taken part in unique pieces of multimedia, including "Holding It Down: The Veterans' Dream Project" this year. The project allowed Iraq war veterans to set their poetry to music to "illuminate the lived experience of war and the subsequent return to civilian life.
Iyer will join Harvard's music department in January.
MacArthur Fellowships includes a $625,000 stipend distribute over five years.