Vijay Iyer is the Music Director of this year’s Ojai at Berkeley, the Cal Performances-presented festival that brings the contemporary classical music tradition of the Ojai Music Festival to the Berkeley campus. Iyer got his PhD there years ago, and received his MacArthur ‘Genius’ award in 2013. The concerts he’s curated combine and blend genres that he thinks shouldn’t be compartmentalized.
There’s more information about the festival, which runs from Thursday through Saturday nights at the Cal Performances Ojai at Berkeley website.
Iyer plays piano in a jazz idiom, with a trio and other small ensembles, but that didn’t stop him from collaborating with violinist Jennifer Koh recently on her ‘Bridges to Beethoven’ series of commissions. And she’ll be playing the concerto he’s just written for her called Trouble with the resident ‘band,’ the International Contemporary Ensemble on Thursday night. “And also on that program,” he says, “is a piece that was premiered last year in Poland for my trio with chamber orchestra, that’s called ‘Emergence.’” Music is music, he says. “One thing that I’ve been trying to remind myself and remind others is that this thing that we call genre is a bit of a fiction that we’ve only recently embraced. Our current understanding of what genre is, and the idea that they are bounded, it’s all pretty recent in our history. This belief in separateness, and all this received wisdom about genre, it’s all a bit false.” Another false dichotomy is separating the idea of composer from that of performer. ” Makers of music, doers of music. Much is made about this presumed distinction between composition and improvisation, but really what we’re talking about is a distinction between ideas and action. Because what an improviser does is implements ideas in real time… The fact is that everyone’s an improviser, actually. Because improvisation is how we get through every day. I mean, it’s how we do almost everything, so it’s not that alien a process.”