First published in 2014. Sitting firmly in the New Music and ‘contemporary classical’ domain the solo piano/electronics parts of Mutations are overtly jazz-flavoured, free, open, and very good they are too. But what about the real heart of the album, the long ‘Mutations’ suite, first performed in 2005 but little known until now that Iyer has written for piano, electronics, and string quartet?
“These 10 coexisting entities are linked either genetically or by a kind of symbiosis,” Iyer says a little obliquely in his notes. And despite their often slow and stately tempi nonetheless harness an underlying urgency in the atonal wash that Iyer has coated on to the strings, piling up tension layer by layer.
Not always an easy listen, and very different to last year’s polemical but ultimately more compelling Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project this newly recorded work draws on serialism (Webern) as well as minimalism (Riley, Reich) with the subtly introduced electronics the unique additional factor.
Improvisation is not necessarily the chief driving consideration at all here in the main ‘Mutations’ suite on this the pianist’s first album as a leader for ECM, and where it does exist they’re “structured improvisations”, part of the overall method, to use Iyer’s phrase. The work of a restless improviser who has challenged boundaries throughout his career continues that process here finding himself in a new musical space in the process. SG