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Tyshawn Sorey wins 2024 Pulitzer Prize in music for ‘Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith)’ : NPR


Pulitzer-winning composer Tyshawn Sorey.

John Rogers/Courtesy of the artist

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John Rogers/Courtesy of the artist

Pulitzer-winning composer Tyshawn Sorey.

John Rogers/Courtesy of the artist

Final 12 months, the resolutely nonconformist composer, educator and percussionist Tyshawn Sorey was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music — a uncommon honor in itself, and a affirmation of the esteem with which his work is held. However that does not imply he had any expectations for this 12 months’s award.

“I am nonetheless sitting right here shocked past perception,” he advised NPR Music on Monday afternoon, about an hour after his composition Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith) was introduced because the Pulitzer winner for 2024. “I had no concept that this was even being thought of.”

Sorey, 43, is a feverishly prolific inventive drive who maintains overlapping profiles within the realms of each improvisational music (“jazz,” although he would not use the time period) and classical new music. In that sense he carries on a convention finest exemplified by musicians like Wadada Leo Smith, a visionary trumpeter and composer whose album Ten Freedom Summers was a finalist for the Pulitzer in 2013. Smith, like Sorey’s educational mentor George Lewis, is a member of the Affiliation for the Development of Artistic Musicians, which has at all times prioritized authentic music made by itself phrases, separate from considerations about style or business attraction.

Sorey’s Monochromatic Gentle (Afterlife), which obtained the earlier Pulitzer nod, is a hauntingly immersive chamber work impressed partly by the Rothko Chapel (which co-commissioned it) and the composer Morton Feldman (who wrote a chunk for the chapel’s dedication in 1971). Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith) — commissioned by Lucerne Competition and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra — is a piece of a lot shorter length, simply 20 minutes, and whereas it strikes at a glacial tempo, it holds its topic in regular focus.

“Wadada tends to keep away from the phrase ‘ballad’ when referring to one thing at a gradual tempo,” Sorey says. “He as an alternative calls it ‘Adagio.’ So I selected the title for that purpose, but additionally due to the best way that Wadada phrases and performs such stunning, melodic figures — issues that take time to develop. I wished to honor his expressive timing, his pacing. And I at all times discuss permitting issues to occur. Wadada actually is basic with that impulse.”

The rating for Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith) has a tempo marking that specifies 1 / 4 observe at “36, precisely.” The piece options an alto saxophone soloist, with a woodwind cohort of two flutes (alto and bass); two English horns, or cor anglais; two bassoons; and two clarinets (a B-flat, and a bass clarinet that “should prolong right down to a low live performance B-flat”). There are additionally two trumpets, two bass trombones, a timpanist, and a 21-piece string ensemble. The contrabassists are instructed to make use of 5 strings, moderately than the usual 4: “If the participant is utilizing a 4 string bass with a low C extension, the C string should be tuned right down to a low live performance B pure (down one half-step).”

The emphasis on low-end fundamentals suggests a genuflection to Smith, as does the calmly expansive vary of dynamic markings, from triple piano (ppp) to triple forte (fff). Organized in three actions however unfolding in a single steady movement, Sorey’s piece has the deep sonorities and accretive energy that has characterised a lot of his writing. It displays the floaty affect of Feldman in addition to the affected person irresolution of residing heroes like Lewis and Smith.

The Pulitzer primarily based its award on the American premiere of Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith) at Atlanta Symphony Corridor final 12 months. Its world premiere occurred on the Lucerne Competition in 2022. Finnish music journalist Jari Kallio referred to as the piece “a revelation” in his evaluation for the weblog Adventures in Music. “Out of the line-up, a sounding realm of shadows emerges, to a shocking impact,” Kallio wrote. “As an alternative of cascades of quick observe configurations, Sorey’s writing for the solo sax establishes entire one other model of virtuosity, one wrought of lengthy strains, the place every observe is given its singular id; a process akin to the enjoying of the concerto’s dedicatee in addition to the tintinnabulations of Arvo Pärt.”

Together with Sorey, this 12 months’s Pulitzer finalists for music have been Mary Kouyoumdjian, for her multimedia work Paper Pianos, and Felipe Lara, for his Double Concerto for esperanza spalding, Claire Chase, and enormous orchestra.

“I am humbled by the entire expertise, and it is nice to be up there with my colleagues additionally, Felipe Lara and Claire Chase,” Sorey mentioned, mentioning two artists with whom he has collaborated and carried out. “To have the panel help my work on this means is only a stunning feeling. It is one thing that I will always remember.”




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