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Celebrating 50 Years of the Rothko Chapel

Celebrating Rothko Chapel's 50th Anniversary


In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Houston’s iconic modernist sanctuary, Rothko Chapel, DACAMERA commissions and presents the world premiere of a major work from genre-defying avant-garde composer/percussionist Tyshawn Sorey. The chapel’s Rothko paintings and world-renowned commitment to non-denominational spirituality and the pursuit of human rights match Sorey’s own musical and social activism and his highly coloristic and sensitive experimental aesthetic. Recently described by Alex Ross in the New Yorker as a “defiant identity on the border between classical music and jazz,” Sorey embodies the boundary-breaking humanist ideals of the Chapel and the multi-genre musical and interdisciplinary performances which DACAMERA embraces in its productions and presentations.
Sorey’s reflection on the Rothko Chapel draws inspiration from Morton Feldman’s masterpiece created for the opening of the Chapel. Using the same instrumentation as Feldman – viola, percussion, celesta, and choir – Sorey is composing a piece that will amplify the mission of the Chapel to inspire people to action through art and contemplation, to nurture reverence for the highest aspirations of humanity, and to provide a forum for global concerns. Sorey has a deep connection to Feldman’s aesthetic, as well as to Rothko’s paintings, and writes:
Since the late 1990s, the composer Morton Feldman has been and will remain probably my biggest influence as a composer. His composition named after the Chapel accurately embodies Rothko’s artistic output. But more than simply a piece of music, the work is that which should be experienced in its own terms. Everything about the composition – the wordless vocals, the Hebraic passage played by viola and accompanying vibraphone at the end of the piece, the austere harmonies in the celesta – are the characteristics that I fell in love with most about this piece. Like the Feldman work, my hope is to simply elongate this feelingful experience and to provide a unique contribution to my own collection of works, for I find such an experience of music to be beautiful and esoteric. I feel that we listeners, assuredly during this time period in art, could use much more of that – qualitatively and quantitatively.
Undoubtedly, Rothko’s work is also a huge influence. The black paintings in the Chapel are works of art with which I strongly resonate (I have synesthesia, so the color black is also a character that is expressed sonically in my music – I would say that the music is more greyscale, really).
Two world premiere performances of Sorey’s new work will take place in Rothko Chapel for an audience of 400. Sorey will conduct the Grammy-winning Houston Chamber Choir, DACAMERA’s Artistic Director Sarah Rothenberg on the celesta, Kim Kashkashian on viola; and Steven Schick, percussion. All performers have been confirmed. A composer talk with the audience and educational events are planned.

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Everything Changes Nothing Changes
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This is the audio of the World Premiere of Tysahwn Sorey’s Everything Changes Nothing Changes written for and performed by JACK Quartet at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta, CA on July 27, 2018. This is the first self-curated disc by the JACK Quartet, which was awarded a New Music USA grant.

Tyshawn Sorey, composer and the JACK Quartet, Christopher Otto, violin, Austin Wulliman, violin, John Pickford Richard, viola, Jay Campbell, cellist.

For Fred Lerdahl
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Features: Tyshawn Sorey

Tyshawn Sorey, Composer with a student ensemble at the New England Conservatory.
Music is soft, use of headphones advised.

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Houston, Texas

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