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20 June 2007



Hi Darcy - thanks for the write up. FWIW, I don't think Cooper-Moore or his group are particularly attached to Chicago, other than Chad Taylor who was raised here (although its possible some more are from here since not all the names are familiar). If you want to check out some serious Chicago players, Nicole Mitchell's group on Thursday, the Fred Anderson Trio on Friday, and Corey Wilkes' group on Saturday afternoon are the hits this Vision Fest.


Hey Darcy, Thanks for writing. I want to clarify, for the blogospheric record - Fieldwork is not "my" band. It is a collective. Each member has an equal share as composer, performer, and co-leader. Peace & respect from Vijay Iyer


Hey Vijay,

Thanks for the clarification. Since Fieldwork has gone through several lineup changes, with yourself as the only constant, I'd thought it was fair at this point to refer to it as "your" band -- but I will happily edit so that the collective nature of the group is more evident.


Hey Dan,

My deepest apologies -- the band was announced as "Chi-town in the house," but I guess the emcee must have been talking about Chad and no one else. (And since none of these players except Chad were familiar to me, but I knew he was from Chicago... ) Many thanks for the much-needed correction.

Also, I was only able to make the first two days of Vision Fest this year, so I'm afraid I'll miss Nicole, Fred and Corey this time around, much to my regret.

Maggie Osterberg

Man, Darcy; you're hitting all my NYC guitar heroes: Verlaine and Lloyd and now Ribot (with a shoutout to Quine)!

A quick gearhead question, if you'll indulge me? What sort of rig was Ribot playing and how was sound for the band handled?


chad taylor is actually from tempe arizona. he made his way to chicago later on in life.


Hey Maggie,

Ribot was on the opposite side of the stage from me, and it was dark, so I didn't get a very good look at his setup. His Wikipedia page lists a few different guitar and amp combos, but I couldn't tell you exactly which one he used Tuesday night. I have a slightly brighter photo that I will email you, though, in case it reveals any mysteries.

John Anderson

Hi Darcy,

Thanks for your comments on Vision Fest. Very interesting an informative for those that couldn't be there. Quick question: What do you mean when you say Fieldwork makes use of algorithmic rhythms? Do you know for a fact whether or not they use algorithms as part of their compositional proces? If so, what types of algorithms?

I saw another blog about Fieldwork's show where it was mentioned that they draw from Carnatic music. I've never known Tyshawn Sorey nor Steve Lehman to draw from Carnatic music in their writing, but perhaps you guys have the inside scoop on what they're up to these days. Very interesting in any case.

Peace Out,



Hi John,

My understanding is that all three will, on occasion at least, use some kind of deterministic method to generate rhythmic and/or intervallic material for their Fieldwork music. I am being deliberately vague because I don't want to misrepresent their process. If you want to know the details it's probably best to ask the artists directly.

John Anderson

Cool. Thanks, Darcy. Just out of curiousity, how did this become your understanding? Is it just what the music sounds like to you? I don't know Vijay Iyer that well, but I know Tyshawn and Stephen pretty well and I've never known them to use any serial techniques for their pitch material, and Stephen in particular is pretty clear about staying away from repetition and and formulas...just curious where you get your info from. Do you know all of these guys? That would explain it....!

Best As Ever,

John J


Hey John,

I was primarily trying to convey something about the sound of the music, though I certainly didn't mean to imply that it sounded formulaic or repetitious -- but of course one of the big concerns of the mid-century serialists was precisely to avoid audible repetition.

It would take a much more perceptive listener than me to be able to determine definitively, on first listen, whether a given piece of music used any serial techniques or not. But there is a certain kind of spiky austerity associated with high modernism and Fieldwork definitely shares some affinity with that particular sound-world, even if the methods used to generate the music are different. That's the main point I was trying to make, but in retrospect I could have been clearer.

That said, people who have studied with Vijay at Banff have described a "rhythmic process" that, at least from their accounts, sounds somewhat deterministic (if not exactly serial). But it's entirely possible that my understanding is flawed, or some crucial information is getting lost in translation. Again, I defer to the artists themselves when it comes to explaining their process.


If I may enter the fray here, at the Vision Fest tunes weren't announced by title nor composer, so it made it difficult to determine whose piece was whose. Vijay Iyer taught at the Banff Centre when I was out there a couple of years ago and went into great detail about his use of Carnatic rhythmic cycles in his music, and the many ways he will use them as generative processes in his music. (Rudresh has parsed the Carnatic tradition in a bit of a different way, and his "Codebook" album takes the generative material a few steps further.) I'm not as familiar with the work of Tyshawn Sorey or Steve Lehman, though it seems that Fieldwork definitely has a sound akin to Vijay's other work, so whether Sorey and Lehman have investigated the Carnatic tradition on their own or have just assimilated it through Iyer and the band, I don't know.

The music isn't formulaic by any means, and it's repetitive only in the way that it's often based on ostinati figures that turn upon themselves rhythmically.

John Anderson

Very interesting insights. Many thanks folks. I guess the question then would be what Tyshawn and Stephen's music sounded like before they became co-leader/composers in Fieldwork....or should we simply assume that their work is influenced by Vijay's since he's the most famous....that doesn't sound right, but one never knows.

John J.J.


John, FWIW I think Fieldwork has its own sound, distinct from the music Vijay, Steve and Tyshawn write for other ensembles.

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