Panoptic Modes

1. Invocation 6:07
2. Configurations 6:42
3. One Thousand and One 8:30
4. History is Alive 4:42
5. Father Spirit 6:19
6. Atlantean Tropes 6:54
7. Numbers (for Mumia) 1:44
8. Trident: 2001 7:18
9. Circular Argument 4:47
10. Invariants 8:21
11. Mountains 4:38
All compositions by Vijay Iyer (Multiplicity Music – SESAC)
P+C Vijay Iyer 2001. All rights reserved.

• In Chennai last summer, in the course of several long philosophical discussions, Madurai G. S. Mani exclaimed more than once, “You are nothing but memories, sir!”

• Panoptic Modes denotes the presence of multiple simultaneous levels of perception. In everyday life, we watch and listen analytically, processing detailed information as it comes in, but we also perceive and act synoptically – intuiting more ineffable qualities, seeing things all at once. Attention to different modes, which could also be understood as different cycles, enhances the impact of any experience.

• You can hear particular details of life experience encoded in music, in the same way that shades of meaning in a tone of voice, a choice of wording, a facial expression, or a photograph can tell a whole story. This way of hearing “the person behind the notes” is nothing new. In fact, it is a traditional African-American aesthetic, which, one could argue, gave rise to this whole system of music-making to begin with. Continually, our improvisations index our individual and collective personal histories. The result is what I like to call an exploded narrative – fragments of storytelling refracted through shards of sound.

• Once I had the good fortune to play violin in Cecil Taylor’s forty-piece orchestra for two grueling, remarkable concerts back-to-back in San Francisco. At the break, we asked our leader what on earth we were going to play for the second show, since we seemed to have exhausted our repertoire (and ourselves) during the first. But without missing a beat, Mr. Taylor rejoined, “We’ll just continue where we left off.” • Along the same lines, Muhal Richard Abrams once referred mysteriously to “the song that never ends.”

• Like a palimpsest, this recording bears multiple imprints of the past. Each composition addresses an issue that preoccupies me, involving notions of heritage, contrast, ambiguity, and altered consciousness. But each recorded performance is further structured by countless improvised reworkings. So what you hear on this disc is a snapshot of a living music – a fragment of a song that never ends – but in some sense, not the music itself. Music is an embodied process; a recording is a trace of that embodiment.

Invocation is a ritual for Rishi Maharaj and his many fellow brown-skinned American victims of hatred and ignorance. A form of Vedic chant is echoed in the piece.

Configurations employs some South Indian techniques of rhythmic progression, but I found myself learning how to negotiate them from Bud Powell.

One Thousand and One was written a few years ago for people suffering in war-torn countries. I never thought that we would find ourselves among them. It is a song of anguish, and a plea for peace.
History is Alive meditates on the world around us as a palimpsest. Light shed on the past reflects on the present. Written when I lived in California, the piece comments on historical amnesia.
My friend, elder, and unofficial teacher, the incredible drummer E.W. Wainwright, a man blessed with elemental life force who can wear out a roomful of musicians half his age, was the inspiration for Father Spirit.
Atlantean Tropes employs musical icons to evoke the sea – an eddying underwater section and a swirling Poseidon-like vamp.

Numbers (for Mumia) – What is to be done about all these death penalty enthusiasts? No one encapsulates this issue more than Mumia abu-Jamal.

Trident: 2001 is a remake of another “sea piece” from one of my previous records, now with more of a millennial thrust – a prayer that contains violence and calm, like the sea itself.
Circular Argument is another in a series of trio pieces, this one a tribute to my hero, Thelonious Sphere Monk.

I was thinking about the way Monk derived musical material from the hand-piano interface, in pieces like “Trinkle, Tinkle.” The structure of my hands and that of the piano gave rise to Invariants.
Finally, several years ago on one of many flights between the coasts, I looked down and saw Mountains.

• I feel blessed to have this project materialize at last. I hope that you will hear in this music, above all, its positive and healing intent. I offer it as one more compassionate gesture, as we endeavor to move forward. Thanks for listening.

Peace & strength – Vijay Iyer September 18, 2001, New York City

The Vijay Iyer Quartet:
Rudresh Mahanthappa alto saxophone Vijay Iyer piano
Stephan Crump acoustic bass Derrek Phillips drums
Produced by Vijay Iyer & Cookie Marenco • Recorded June 9, 2000 at The Studio/Current Sounds, NYC by Cookie Marenco • Mixed July 25, 2000 at Tubetowne, Raritan, NJ by Cookie Marenco with Vijay Iyer • Mastered by Cookie Marenco • Assistant Engineer: Scott Thompson

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Special thanks to: Rudresh for keeping it in the blood, Stephan for keeping it grounded, and Derrek for keeping it real • their loved ones for giving us time & space • Cookie and Scott for pushing their golden ears, minds, and hearts to the limit • Aaron, Elliot, Liberty, Imani, Miya, T. Sankaran, J.D., David W., Ben, E.W., Devin, François, Jabali, & Sub-Zero for splendid collaborations • Steve Coleman, Roscoe Mitchell, Andrew Hill, George Lewis, Henry Threadgill, Trichy Sankaran, Umayalpuram Sivaraman for knowledge • The Jazz Gallery, Jazz-India, Verona Jazz, NYU, Smithsonian, & Columbia for gigs • Arts International for help • all our dear friends for their friendship • my parents and sister for believing & supporting • most of all Christina, for immeasurable love