Tyshawn Sorey Wins Pulitzer for Composing an ‘Anti-Concerto’

Concertos are typically works meant to showcase dazzling virtuosity. But when the composer and instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey set out to write one for saxophone and orchestra several years ago, he quickly dispensed with convention.

Describing the work as an “anti-concerto,” Sorey set out to provide a “respite from the chaos and intrusiveness of modern life.” In the score, he instructed the soloist and orchestra to play very softly and at an unhurried tempo of thirty-six quarter notes per minute.

“I’m not interested in having a typical experience,” Sorey, 43, said in an interview. “I just wanted to create a work that kind of gets us to let the music wash over us, and lets us take our time in listening to it.”

On Monday, the work, called “Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith),” which was commissioned by the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music. It was a high honor for an artist who has spent his career defying labels, blurring the boundaries between jazz and classical music.

Sorey wrote the roughly 20-minute work to pay tribute to Smith, the celebrated American trumpeter and composer, whom he met two decades ago and calls a mentor.

“Every moment I spend with him is a learning experience,” he said, “and it’s always been something that I value and cherish.”

Back to top button