Tyshawn Sorey Travels Further Out on New Works


Tyshawn Sorey recently issued music through the digital platform PEOPLE.

(Photo: John Rogers)

Tyshawn Sorey’s days as a sideman might be coming to an end. “I’ve lived that life, and it was great during its time, but now I’m in a different headspace, in terms of the relationship that I have with my music,” the percussionist and composer said from Banff, Alberta, Canada.

Sorey was in residence at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in July, premiering two pieces. The first, Bertha’s Lair, was a duet with flutist Claire Chase, which also has been recorded for release; the second was written for the JACK Quartet as part of the EQ: Evolution of the String Quartet program. These types of commissions are making up an increasingly large portion of Sorey’s output.

“I’m basically booked for the next three years or so, just writing a bunch of stuff,” he said. “I’m doing a ton of writing and performances of my own stuff, which is where I wanted to be anyway.”

Sorey’s music seems to travel further out with each passing year. His 2016 The Inner Spectrum Of Variables (Pi) paired his long-standing group with a string trio; the music combined jazz and modern composition into a constantly shifting sonic landscape all its own. The following year, the trio released Verisimilitude (Pi) , which added subtle electronics to the music, creating work that owed as much to Morton Feldman as Bill Evans.

Another recent piece, Autoschediasms, was created and performed by Crash Ensemble at the April MusicNOW festival in Cincinnati, Ohio. When a composition the seven-piece group had been planning to perform was pulled from the program, cellist Kate Ellis called Sorey and suggested they collaborate on something new.

“Of course, I agreed to it,” Sorey said. “The only problem was trying to figure out, how am I gonna teach them this lexicon of new information for them to follow me with at the very last minute? So, I basically created some visual and verbal cues, textual cues for some of the players on my way to Cincinnati.”

Autoschediasms is a rumbling, sparse piece that’s like walking through an abandoned city, trees overwhelming the concrete and steel. It’s not available for purchase, but can be streamed through PEOPLE, a digital platform established in 2016 that hosts work by independent artists.

“PEOPLE incorporates a broad sense of a musician’s process and allows them to share works in progress and recordings more immediately with their audience,” said platform co-founder Bryce Dessner, who performs as part of The National. “For a musician as brilliant and versatile as Tyshawn, it feels [like] the direction of PEOPLE could align closely with his own. And regardless, it is a great honor to have some of his work as part of PEOPLE.”

Pillars is Sorey’s next proper album, a three-CD set planned for a November release on Firehouse 12. Each disc contains a single track, running at about 75 minutes, performed by a nine-member ensemble that finds many of its players switching from one instrument to another.

The nature of the music might make live performance difficult, but Sorey’s trajectory seems to be taking him off the road, anyway. “I’m not dying to go out and tour,” he said. “I’m only interested in getting the work out there to people who have a vested interest in it and who are interested in hearing the music.” DB

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November 2021
Joey DeFrancesco
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