top of page

Vijay Iyer


Five Empty Chambers (2016) for tape




Composer-pianist Vijay Iyer is the Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts at Harvard University. He was voted Downbeat Magazine’s Jazz Artist of the Year for 2012, 2015, and 2016, and he has received a MacArthur Fellowship, a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, and a Grammy nomination. His twenty-one recordings include A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke (ECM, 2016) in duo with Wadada Leo Smith, and Break Stuff (ECM, 2015) with his trio. He serves as Director of the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, and as Music Director for the 2017 Ojai Music Festival.



Program Notes

Five Empty Chambers


Every sound you hear in this piece was generated by Claire Chase. My initial idea was to build a piece for live flute and pre-recorded audio. I asked Claire to record herself playing non-pitched material so that I could build some accompanying rhythms and textures.

I specified almost nothing about what I needed, and so what she sent me were not isolated individual sounds, but a series of virtuosic pitch-free impromptus on five different flutes (contrabass flute, alto flute, flute, piccolo, and ocarina). She displayed a different personality on each instrument; it was like listening to a cypher of  whisper-quiet battle emcees, or perhaps a series of encounters with various insect-robots, whirring and buzzing in the air in front of you.

I decided I would treat each of her improvisations as an episode. I built a specific environment around each one, and ran them through effects so that her extemporaneous rhythms were triggering other sounds. The more I sat with the results, the more I realized that additional flute might not be necessary. So I decided to give Claire a break for this round. Thank you for listening.

- V.I.



There is no written score for the solo (tape) version this work, as it was based on Chase’s recorded improvisations. The live ensemble version of the work with multiple flutists is a generative and improvisatory process that Chase leads in educational workshops. If you are interested in performing the work in its ensemble version, please contact For information about Vijay Iyer’s other music, please contact

bottom of page