Composer and Musician Tyshawn Sorey | 2017 MacArthur Fellow


I’ve never really wanted to put things
in categories because I felt that that would limit my overall perspective on
what I think music should be. My name is Tyshawn Sorey
I am a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and conductor.
I am a percussionist, drummer, trombonist, pianist. Being a multi-instrumentalist
in my music gives me a lot more possibilities to explore sonically, in
real time. I compose music for my trio and several different kinds of ensembles,
chamber ensembles, and my music focuses on many different types of music making,
different types of ensemble behavior, and my work also transcends generic
boundaries. When I was a kid I would listen to a lot of recordings by
different artists such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker,
but I’ve also listened to the great music of Earth, Wind & Fire. I would
listen to the Mississippi Delta musicians like Muddy Waters, Robert
Johnson, people like that. Terms like jazz, R&B, avant-garde, and things like that,
I don’t consider them really important when it comes to my music. I’m interested
in the totality of all different musics throughout the world and seeing what I
can do with them. My musical compositions deal with the
relationship between composition and improvisation and what I look to do is
to sort of obliterate the line between what is composed and what is improvised.
I think I’m more about the entire palette of the music, the entire work,
rather than splitting it off into two different components of a given
composition. “Verisimilitude” is a complete work in five different movements. This
work is important for me right now because this is the sort of transitional
work where I’m no longer using lots of pages of notated material, which is in
direct contrast with “Alloy,” the other recording that my trio has done. I immediately said yes to the opportunity
to do a Josephine Baker song cycle. Josephine Baker was one of the most
important artists of the 20th century, is very important to the civil rights
movement, and what I want the audience to take away from that was really the pain
and struggle that she had to endure while she was putting herself out there
as an entertainer, always being vulnerable, and how that vulnerability is
sort of masked through the entertainment itself. I like for every performance to have its own sort of life. Every performance is
unique to whoever the audience is who attends the music. It’s music that
happens one time only and will probably never happen again and probably has
never happened before either.