Sorey Is ‘Obliterating the Lines,’ According to New York Times Profile

Tyshawn Sorey (Photo by John Rogers)

Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11, assistant professor of music, is called a “preternaturally talented multi-instrumentalist who has built a career in the territory between standard definitions” in an extensive profile in The New York Times.

“In some circles, he’s thought of as a jazz drummer; in others, he fits in more as an avant-garde composer,” the article says of Sorey, who is about to release his sixth album, “Versimilitude.”

The article discusses Sorey’s background, from his modest upbringing in Newark—where his public schools offered little in the way of arts education and his father “helped foster his affinity for music”—to his study of jazz drumming at William Paterson University.

Years later, in graduate school at Wesleyan, Mr. Sorey studied under Mr. [Anthony] Braxton, a founding member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, whose compositions use a colorful notation system that ignores the strictures of standard staves. (The association, founded in Chicago in 1965, aims to nurture visionary black composers without accommodating the classical or jazz establishments.)

Mr. Braxton, a longtime academic, has used writing to delineate and defend his own practice, and encouraged Mr. Sorey to embrace his talents as a scholar. “He was saying it’s O.K. to be a black composer in your own way, and to develop your own language, and to also write about it,” Mr. Sorey said. The idea was “to find a way to communicate it to the public, so that you won’t go down in history as being defined by someone else.”