About the Grant

$35,000 to support Holding it Down: Songs of Experience (MAP 2009), a new, multi-layered, multi-disciplinary work created by composer Vijay Iyer and poet Mike Ladd.

About the Project

Continuing on the heels of their acclaimed, groundbreaking music/poetry collaborations In What Language? (2003) and Still Life with Commentator (2006), Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd will collaborate directly with young American war veterans of color to create Holding it Down: Songs of Experience. Iyer and Ladd will create and develop a series of short performance works built around interviews with veterans of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These will be built into an evening-length performance and eventual album, in which the testimonies of veterans of color are woven into a fabric of music, poetry, video and song.

This project, at its core, considers what it means for soldiers of color to move from a racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically complex American context into the international context of war – and furthermore, what it means to return home. Every American conflict has sent home a generation of veterans of color. Each time they have returned with great expectations for racial justice in exchange for their service, and expectations of justice as a whole for the veteran community.

How is this new generation of veterans suffering and surviving, and what are they demanding? How do these individuals manage their irreversibly transformed existence, moving from the unspeakable back to the speakable? And a still newer question: What will be the relationship between veterans of color and our first African-American president? How do veterans of color fit into a newly transformed American race dynamic? These are among the questions Iyer and Ladd will explore through Holding It Down.

Related Websites

Harlem Stage

Vijay Iyer


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