by Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd

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***All proceeds from the sale of InWhatStrumentals will support immigrant groups and communities of color disproportionately affected by COVID-19.***

A few weeks into lockdown in the Plague of 2020, as we took shelter from danger, loss, and uncertainty, Seth Rosner at Pi Recordings asked if I might be willing to offer some old or new music to the world. As it happened, I’d been thinking back to an earlier time of crisis, and how we had managed to make art in the face of it.

Poet-producer Mike Ladd and I created In What Language? in 2003, in post-9/11 New York City. We were just coming to terms with the facts on the ground, which today seem frighteningly ordinary: mounting intolerance and hate crimes against Muslims, Arabs, Sikhs, and other nonwhite people; traumatic raids of immigrant communities by the INS (later Homeland Security); the prospect of endless, amoral war waged under false pretenses; the callous neoliberal agendas of globalization and disaster capitalism; and an unprecedented power grab enacted under cover of jingoism and feigned incompetence.

For us as travelers of color, the swift transformation of international airports made it all too plain. These formerly optimistic spaces of encounter and adventure swiftly devolved into irrational zones of anxiety, suspicion, surveillance, and the hyperpolicing of Black and brown bodies, even as the labor force in these spaces mostly comprised the same people being surveilled. “People just disappear,” as one interviewee said.

I wrote this music to sound out the airport’s vexed zones of light and darkness, and the shifting human relationships to them. We built each piece for a real person - either Mike himself (Colors I-IV), or someone he met in an airport and brought to our ear via his lyric. Each soundscape became a space for that person to stretch out and be heard, to move, breathe, and live anew.

Something about 2020’s rolling tragedy has led me back to these old, haunted, nearly empty rooms of sound. In 2003 I hadn’t imagined that this music, so tied to its original context, could mean something seventeen years later. In the darkness of that moment, we weren’t so sure that the world would hold together for this long. But somehow back then, Scotty Hard and I chose to preserve these instrumental mixes anyway, setting them aside for a rainy day.

And that is the lesson to myself and anyone else caught up in a seductive pessimism about our possible futures. In precarious times, art-making becomes a leap of faith, born of a belief that whenever that next rainy day comes, we will still be here, with an umbrella, ready to face it.

Vijay Iyer
April 24, 2020


released May 8, 2020

Vijay Iyer, piano, Fender Rhodes, keyboards, electronics
Mike Ladd, EMS synthi, electronics
Ambrose Akinmusire, trumpet
Rudresh Mahanthappa, alto saxophone
Dana Leong, trombone, violoncello
Liberty Ellman, guitar
Stephan Crump, acoustic & electric bass
Trevor Holder, drums

Recorded May 2-3, 2003 at Sorcerer Sound, NYC by Scotty Hard
except #4, 7, 9 recorded April 30, 2003 at TME Studios, The Bronx by Fred Ones

Mastered by Mike Fossenkemper

Produced by Scotty Hard, Vijay Iyer, and Mike Ladd

All selections by Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd and published by Multiplicity Music / Like Madd Music (SESAC).


all rights reserved



Vijay Iyer New York, New York

Described by The New York Times as a “social conscience, multimedia collaborator, system builder, rhapsodist, historical thinker and multicultural gateway,” composer-pianist VIJAY IYER has carved out a unique path as an influential, prolific, shape-shifting presence in twenty-first-century music. He received a MacArthur Fellowship, a United States Artist Fellowship, and a Grammy nomination. ... more


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