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Composer Tyshawn Sorey Awarded 2024 Pulitzer Prize in Music

Sorey was awarded the prestigious award for his piece “Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith)”

 

The Pulitzer Prize in Music is given to a “distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year.”

The 2024 award was given to composer Tyshawn Sorey and his composition “Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith).” Commissioned by the Lucerne Festival and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, it received its world premiere in Lucerne on August 20, 2022, and its US premiere in Atlanta on March 16, 2023 — both with Timothy McAllister as soloist. The US premiere was part of New Music USA’s Amplifying Voices program.

Sorey has written several pieces dedicated to various teachers, mentors, and colleagues throughout his studies and career. "Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith)" was dedicated to the trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, with whom he has performed and recorded.

The Pulitzer Prize website describes “Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith)” as an "anticoncerto."

"Concertos are usually showcases for dazzling displays of virtuosic technique," it reads. "This work requires a great deal of technique, but of a much more subtle variety.  Instead of rapid-fire outbursts of sixteenth or thirty- second notes the soloist and orchestra are asked to play at the glacial tempo of thirty-six quarter notes per minute.

"The dynamics are extremely quiet. It is more about introversion than extroversion. The players and the listeners need to settle in for twenty minutes as the work unfolds slowly and quietly with beautiful, sustained harmonies and only slightly less sustained melodies introduced via the orchestra or intermittently by the saxophone soloist. This stately but understated work is a welcome respite from the chaos and intrusiveness of modern life."

 

Composer Tyshawn Sorey was a 2017 MacArthur Fellow and a 2018 United States Artists Fellow. His composition Monochromatic Light (Afterlife) was honored as a Finalist for the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in Music, and has been recorded with the Houston Chamber Choir and DaCamera for release in 2024.

Other recent accolades include the Fromm Fellowship, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Goddard Lieberson Fellowship, and the Koussevitzsky Prize — in addition to Downbeat Magazine's 023 Critics Poll Award as a Rising Star Producer.

Presently on the composition faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, Sorey has composed works for the International Contemporary Ensemble, Talea Ensemble, soprano Julia Bullock, PRISM Quartet, JACK Quartet, TAK Ensemble, cellist Seth Parker Woods, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, bass-baritone Davóne Tines, Alarm Will Sound, pianist Awadagin Pratt and vocal group Roomful of Teeth, violinist Johnny Gandelsman, and tenor Lawrence Brownlee, among others.

He was selected as a Peabody Resident at Johns Hopkins University for the Fall of 2023, and has taught and lectured on composition and improvisation at institutions such as Columbia University, Harvard University, Darmstadter Ferienkurse, Wesleyan University, The New England Conservatory, University of Michigan, The Banff Centre, Berklee College of Music, Mills College, University of Chicago, and The Danish Rhythmic Conservatory.

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