April 1, 2023 | by Vijay Iyer
Vijay Iyer at SFJAZZ (photo by Ronald Davis)
For this month's exclusive Members-only article, we asked pianist and composer Vijay Iyer to illuminate his personal journey of creativity with the piano. As expected, his response was fascinating and thoughtful — much like his music.
Iyer performs solo on 4/6 and 4/7–9 with his all-star trio including bassist Linda May Han Oh and MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" recipient Tyshawn Sorey on drums. The 4/7 show will be broadcast live on SFJAZZ.org as part of our Fridays Live series.
My earliest musical memory, indeed perhaps my earliest memory at all, is from age 3 or 4. I had started violin lessons, and my beloved older sister Pratima, then 6 or 7, had started on piano. My parents had gotten her a modest spinet on which she would work through her Suzuki repertoire. Her little piano loomed grandly over me and my 1/16th-size violin; similarly I found myself looking up to her, as my sentinel and guide through childhood. One day I heard her playing something I did not recognize from the Suzuki practice tapes. She was clanging around in what was probably A minor; it involved a lot of white keys and sustain pedal. At some point, either that time or the next, I toddled up beside her and clanged in counterpoint. Together we got the instrument resonating and shaking until it felt like it might tip over. I called this a musical memory; is that the right word for it? Little me, together with one of my favorite people in the world, engaged in collaborative exploratory play, forming sonic experience, making a joyful noise, surely breaking a rule or two. Even then I must have thought, Could this be music too? Instantly, I was hooked. And to this day, every time I play the piano, some part of me is transported back to that ecstatic, timeless, transgressive moment from childhood. You could call it my origin story.
This article is for SFJAZZ Members only. Read more by logging in or signing up!
December 15, 201815 SAXOPHONE ALBUMS YOU SHOULD HEAR
April 5, 2016Playlist: Bebop To Hip Hop
October 12, 201815 Trumpet Albums You Should Hear
March 7, 201810 Rising Female Instrumentalists
August 22, 2018Designed To Connect: Inside The Joe Henderson Lab at SFJAZZ
August 9, 201612 Jazz Guitar Albums You Should Hear