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Cover

Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd

In What Language?

  • Type CD
  • Label Pi Recordings
  • UPC 0808713000924
  • Catalog number PI 09
  • Release date 15 December 2008
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About the album

With this project, Iyer and Ladd have inspired each other to reach far beyond what either has done previously. Taken together, their influences cover the entire spectrum of modern music, and it shows. The mesmerizing sonic miniatures range from the ominous funk of “Security” to the luminous jazz orchestration of “Taking Back the Airplane,” from the rugged electronic programming of “TLC” to the noble cello-and-piano hymn of “Plastic Bag,” from the swirling improvisational grooves of the “Color of my Circumference” cycle to the mournfully programmatic composition “Asylum.”

The project features the creative sonic techniques of versatile engineer/co-producer Scotty Hard (a.k.a. Scott Harding), who has imbued the album with a genre-bending variety and flair. Defying expectation throughout, the project nonetheless maintains a sense of larger purpose, as the poetry and music intertwine in rich dialogue.

The poems of In What Language? comprise a series of darkly lyrical monologues by people of color negotiating the hyper-globalized setting of a 21st-century international airport. It takes its title from a pre-9/11 experience of Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who, transiting through JFK in spring 2001, was wrongly detained by INS officials. Panahi’s description of this ordeal was widely circulated online. Sent back to Hong Kong, in handcuffs, he wanted to explain his story to fellow passengers. “I’m not a thief! I’m not a murderer! … I am just an Iranian, a filmmaker. But how could I tell this, in what language?”

“As a fellow brown-skinned traveler, I felt a need to amplify and address Panahi’s question,” says Iyer. “The need to assert one’s humanity in the face of ignorance and oppression became the driving force behind this project.” As a response, they chose to critique the deceptively neutral setting of the airport: “The airport serves as a contact zone for those who feel either empowered or subjugated by globalization,” says Ladd. “It’s a center of commerce and a crossroads of cultures. As a poet I chose to explore the myriad of ways an airport can be interpreted.” Commissioned by the Asia Society, the two worked intensely on the material for over a year, and debuted their “song cycle” in May 2003.

  • 1
    1
    The Color of My Circumference I
     
    04:11
  • 1
    2
    The Density of the 19th Century
     
    05:16
  • 1
    3
    Terminal City
     
    01:56
  • 1
    4
    Rentals
     
    02:45
  • 1
    5
    Security
     
    03:39
  • 1
    6
    DeGaulle
     
    06:38
  • 1
    7
    TLC
     
    02:40
  • 1
    8
    Three Lotto Stories
     
    04:50
  • 1
    9
    The Color of My Circumference II
     
    02:09
  • 1
    10
    Iraqi Businessman
     
    02:43
  • 1
    11
    Taking Back the Airplane
     
    04:54
  • 1
    12
    The Color of My Circumference III
     
    02:30
  • 1
    13
    Innana After Baghdad
     
    02:32
  • 1
    14
    In What Language
     
    04:05
  • 1
    15
    Asylum
     
    06:22
  • 1
    16
    The Color of My Circumference IV
     
    05:51
  • 1
    17
    Plastic Bag
     
    06:08

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