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DACAMERA Announces Tyshawn Sorey Commission with Rothko Chapel, Premiering February 2022

On Saturday, February 19 (8 pm Eastern time) and Sunday, February 20 (4 pm Eastern), 2022, Sorey will conduct the performers in the work's world premiere.

DACAMERA Announces Tyshawn Sorey Commission with Rothko Chapel, Premiering February 2022

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Houston's Rothko Chapel, DACAMERA and Rothko Chapel have commissioned boundary-breaking composer Tyshawn Sorey to create a new work inspired by the Chapel. In turn, Sorey drew inspiration from Morton Feldman's 20th-century masterpiece, Rothko Chapel, which premiered there in 1972.

On Saturday, February 19 (8 pm Eastern time) and Sunday, February 20 (4 pm Eastern), 2022, Sorey will conduct a distinguished lineup of performers in the work's world premiere, which will take place before a live audience at the Chapel.

Sharing the instrumentation of Feldman's score, Sorey's as-yet-untitled 30-minute composition will be performed by the Grammy-winning Houston Chamber Choir, renowned violist Kim Kashkashian, master percussionist Steven Schick, and DACAMERA's Artistic Director Sarah Rothenberg, who will play piano and celesta. All of these players appeared on DACAMERA's acclaimed ECM recording of Feldman's Rothko Chapel, released in 2015. Tickets will be available this Fall at dacamera.com.

The Rothko Chapel is a unique non-denominational chapel founded by John and Dominique de Menil, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The octagonal interior contains fourteen dark-hued canvases created for the space by the great 20th-century painter Mark Rothko, who also influenced the building's design. Rothko, who died tragically in 1970, did not live to see the Chapel's opening in 1971. Feldman was a close friend of the painter; his score, commissioned by the de Menils, served as a heartfelt elegy.

Tyshawn Sorey - who has called Feldman "my biggest influence as a composer" - was an ideal choice for the project. Discussions with Sorey began in 2018, following DACAMERA's highly successful presentation of his Perle Noire with soprano Julia Bullock and the International Contemporary Ensemble in 2016. The current commission was originally scheduled to premiere in February 2021, but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

DACAMERA previously commissioned another work inspired by the Chapel: Kaija Saariaho's Sombre, which premiered there in 2013 to celebrate the 25th anniversaries of DACAMERA and The Menil Collection.

Says Sarah Rothenberg, "It is with great excitement that we look forward to the world premiere of Tyshawn Sorey's new work, a project years in the making. Rothko Chapel is a unique space of contemplation and stillness, a rigorous and daring artistic statement, a spiritual oasis; the same can be said of Tyshawn Sorey's music - highly original, searching, and deep, pushing beyond conventional categories of genre, opening up new paths of expression. We are honored to partner with Rothko Chapel in uniting music and art with this major commission."

Regarding the commission, Sorey says, "It is most certainly an honor for me to have been asked to create a work commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Rothko Chapel, and for many reasons. Among the reasons why it is so important to me is because it has become increasingly apparent that the music that I've been making in my 'concert works' stratum seems much better fit for places that are conducive to EXPERIENCING music, rather than simply listening to it for entertainment purposes or in traditional concert hall experiences. It is known to many that my music is synonymous with meditation in that it is intended to expand one's consciousness and fulfillment THROUGH the act of listening as well as giving the experiencer the opportunity to heighten their sense of awareness in their listening. My work seeks to do exactly that, given its painstaking attention to expressive timing and rhythmic/formal/harmonic detail.

"Moreover, the music attends very closely to glacial-like slowness, extended repetition, and meditative-like qualities in sound through resonance of certain instruments, decay, just-noticeable differences between in/audibility, and directional/non-directional structures. This approach centers on how one FEELS music, which ultimately became part of my compositional aesthetic. In these senses, my music perfectly aligns with the intention of the Chapel, which has always served as a place for meditation.

"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).

"Finally, 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."

This commission was supported by a 2020 Project Grant from New Music USA. For more information on this event, visit dacamera.com, and watch this space for further news on DACAMERA's 21/22 season.


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