Vijay Iyer’s “Human Archipelago” (Oregon Symphony) – US premiere


Vijay Iyer Portrait Photo: Barbara Rigon

Composer Statement for his commissioned piece, Human Archipelago:

Human Archipelago uses the concerto format to stage a series of precarious encounters among the soloist, the orchestra, and the “travelers,” a group of performers who play only by ear. The first movement, “Scenes in Free Fall,” sets a single melody in a series of unstable environments; the next, “Xenia,” imagines a blessed visit from strangers; and the last, “To be one of many,” builds a fugue-like collective polyphony before giving way to a coda where the soloist and travelers unite.

This piece was born of our evolving relationship to two urgent, entangled global phenomena: climate change and mass migration. It is my hope that the music might offer an opportunity to reflect on our ethical responsibilities to our fellow human beings in the present and future — indeed to rethink our very notion of “us.”

I am grateful to Inbal Segev for initiating this project and believing in my work; to Teju Cole and Peter Sellars, who helped me feel my way through the ideas; and to all of the performers for embodying the music with virtuosity and grace.

Human Archipelago was commissioned by the London Philharmonic, Oregon Symphony, Fresno Philharmonic, Las Vegas Philharmonic, Boise Philharmonic, the Illinois Philharmonic, and Inbal Segev.

This performance is part of New Music USA’s Amplifying Voices program, which fosters collaboration and collective action between US orchestras and composers toward racial and gender equity in classical music.

Looking for more content like this?