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.



Philadelphia Dance Projects began a presenting series of dance performances, workshops, and “informances” by individual dance artists.

Grants & Grantees

Bruce Metcalf is a jeweler and a 1996 Pew Fellow.

Retrace mining lore back to the anthracite fields of central Pennsylvania through this new, folk-classical hybrid choral work by composer Julia Wolfe.

“What is an author?” It is a question the composer George Lewis asks, via Foucault, in his keynote essay for our Questions of Practice series on co-authorship in artistic practice.

This week, we speak to musician and composer Chris Forsyth, whose career remains devoted to his roots in rock music, while questioning and expanding upon them.

Saxophonist and Pew Fellow Matthew Levy on what motivates his multi-faceted practice as a musician, composer, and commissioner/producer of new music, his daily art-making routine, and more.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Joshua Rubin is a founding clarinetist and the program director of ICE, where he oversees the creative direction of more than 50 concerts per season.

Focusing on the work of Bach, Beethoven, and Britten, Farewell explores how each composer addresses themes of departures.

The Mississippi Blues Project featured eight exceptional blues musicians who made their regional debuts, all of whom were selected for their contributions to the genre and its continuing evolution as a vibrant folk art form.

Collaborators & Colleagues

A 2002 MacArthur Fellow and early member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, George Lewis is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University.

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage (the Center) announced today its 2015 grants in support of the Philadelphia region’s cultural organizations and artists. Marking the Center’s 10th year of grantmaking, a total of more than $9.6 million will provide funding for 12 new Pew Fellowships, 34 Project grants, and three Advancement grants.

“Extraordinary Indian classical dancer” Sarukkai performed at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, a Center-funded concert presented by Sruti, the India Music and Dance Society.