Speaking to your Harvard students, how would you define what makes a work of music great?
I will never say anything like that. I would never say, “This is what makes something great.” Because greatness is relative, and it’s subjective and it has to do with one’s own standard of greatness. And when you tell someone, especially in a pedagogical situation, that this is what makes something great, they don’t have a chance to really explore that for themselves. They just feel like, ‘oh, I guess that’s what I’m supposed to write down and that’s what I’m supposed to know for the exam’ and stuff like that. It’s not real.
From Ingenious: Vijay Iyer: On the science and talent of music.by Kevin Berger, Nautilus, Oct 30, 2014
Vijay Iyer is a 2013 recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, a musician is versed in seeing the world through the lens of science. Iyer’s Yale undergraduate degree in math and physics paved the way to his Ph.D. in technology and the arts at the University of California, Berkeley. The jazz pianist has recorded over 15 albums and in 2012 was voted Jazz Artist of the Year in the DownBeat International Critics Poll.