Celebrate choice with an improvisational jazz performance by percussionist Tyshawn Sorey and pianist Marilyn Crispell! After the performance, Penn Music's Guthrie Ramsey joins Sorey and Crispell for a wide-ranging discussion about the choices they make in improvisation and spontaneous composition, historical perspectives on improvisation, and their acclaimed 2019 release The Adornment of Time. This esteemed Dr. S.T. Distinguished Lecture in the Humanities was rescheduled from last year's Forum on Choice.
Cosponsored by Penn's Departments of Africana Studies and Music and the Center for Africana Studies.
Tyshawn Sorey, Newark-born multi-instrumentalist and composer, is celebrated for his incomparable virtuosity, effortless mastery and memorization of highly complex scores, and an extraordinary ability to blend composition and improvisation in his work. He has performed nationally and internationally with his own ensembles, as well as artists such as John Zorn, Vijay Iyer, Roscoe Mitchell, Muhal Richard Abrams, Wadada Leo Smith, Marilyn Crispell, George Lewis, Claire Chase, Steve Lehman, Jason Moran, Evan Parker, Anthony Braxton, and Myra Melford, among many others. The New York Times has praised Sorey for his instrumental facility and aplomb, “he plays not only with gale-force physicality, but also a sense of scale and equipoise”; The Wall Street Journal notes Sorey is, “a composer of radical and seemingly boundless ideas.” The New Yorker recently noted that Sorey is “among the most formidable denizens of the in-between zone…An extraordinary talent who can see across the entire musical landscape.”
Sorey has composed works for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the International Contemporary Ensemble, soprano Julia Bullock, PRISM Quartet, JACK Quartet, TAK Ensemble, the McGill-McHale Trio, bass-baritone Davóne Tines, Alarm Will Sound, the Louisville Orchestra, and tenor Lawrence Brownlee with Opera Philadelphia in partnership with Carnegie Hall, as well as for countless collaborative performers. His music has been performed in notable venues such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Village Vanguard, the Ojai Music Festival, the Newport Jazz Festival, the Kimmel Center, and the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center. Sorey has received support for his creative projects from The Jerome Foundation, The Shifting Foundation, Van Lier Fellowship, and was named a 2017 MacArthur fellow and a 2018 United States Artists Fellow.
Sorey has released twelve critically acclaimed recordings that feature his work as a composer, co-composer, improviser, multi-instrumentalist, and conceptualist. His latest release, Pillars (Firehouse 12 Records, 2018), has been praised by Rolling Stone as “an immersive soundworld… sprawling, mysterious… thrilling” and has been named as one of BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction 2018 albums of the year.
Sorey has taught and lectured on composition and improvisation at Columbia University, The New England Conservatory, The Banff Centre, University of Michigan, International Realtime Music Symposium, Harvard University, Hochschule für Musik Köln, Berklee College of Music, University of Chicago, and The Danish Rhythmic Conservatory. Sorey received a B.Music in Jazz Studies and Performance from William Paterson University, an M.A. in Music Composition from Wesleyan University, and a D.M.A. in Music Composition from Columbia University. He is currently Presidential Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania.
Marilyn Crispell is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music where she studied classical piano and composition, and has been a resident of Woodstock, New York since 1977 when she came to study and teach at the Creative Music Studio. She discovered jazz through the music of John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor and other contemporary jazz players and composers. For ten years she was a member of the Anthony Braxton Quartet and the Reggie Workman Ensemble and has been a member of the Barry Guy New Orchestra and guest with his London Jazz Composers Orchestra, as well as a member of the Henry Grimes Trio, Quartet Noir (with Urs Leimgruber, Fritz Hauser and Joelle Leandre), and Anders Jormin's Bortom Quintet. In 2005 she performed and recorded with the NOW Orchestra in Vancouver, Canada and in 2006 she was co-director of the Vancouver Creative Music Institute and a faculty member at the Banff Centre International Workshop in Jazz. In 2014 she led a three-week music residency at the Atlantic Center For the Arts, New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and in 2016 led a one-week residency at the Conservatory Manuel de Falla in Buenos Aires. In 2019 she will be a guiding artist at the Jazzdanmark Summer Session in Denmark. Currently she is touring and recording with two different trios: Joe Lovano's Trio Tapestry (with Carmen Castaldi) and a trio with Harvey Sorgen and Joe Fonda, as well as collaborating with Angelica Sanchez, Tanya Kalmanovitch, Gunhild Seim, Tyshawn Sorey, David Rothenberg and others.
Besides working as a soloist and leader of her own groups, Crispell has performed and recorded extensively with well-known players on the American and international jazz scene. She's also performed and recorded music by contemporary composers Robert Cogan, Pozzi Escot, John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, Manfred Niehaus and Anthony Davis (including four performances of his opera "X" with the New York City Opera).
In addition to playing, she has taught improvisation workshops and given lecture/demonstrations at universities and art centers in the U.S., Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and has collaborated with videographers, filmmakers, dancers and poets.
Crispell has been the recipient of three New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship grants, a Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust composition commission, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1996 she was given an Outstanding Alumni Award by the New England Conservatory, and in 2004, was cited as being one of their 100 most outstanding alumni of the past 100 years.
A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr. is a music historian, pianist, composer, and Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of Pennsylvania. A widely-published writer, he’s the author of Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop (2003), and The Amazing Bud Powell: Black Genius, Jazz History and The Challenge of Bebop (2013). Dr. Ramsey is co-author beside Samuel A. Floyd, Jr., with Melanie Zeck of The Transformation of Black Music: The Rhythms, the Songs and the Ships of the African Diaspora (2017) and editor of Rae Linda Brown, The Heart of a Woman: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price (2020). His books in progress include Who Hears Here?, a collection of essays, and the monograph Sound Proof: Black Music, Magic and Racial Intimacies, a history of African American music from the slave-era to the present. He was editor for the series Music of the African Diaspora at the University of California Press for ten years and founding editor of the blog Musiqology.com.
As a producer, label head, and leader of the band Dr. Guy’s Musiqology, Dr. Ramsey has released five recording projects and has performed at venues such as The Blue Note and Harlem Stage in New York, and the Annenberg Theater of the Performing Arts and Chris’ Jazz Café in Philadelphia, and other venues worldwide. His musical commissions include “Someone Is Listening,” written with poet Elizabeth Alexander, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the NAACP; he recently scored the prize-winning documentary Making Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South. His documentary Amazing: The Tests and Triumph of Bud Powell was a selection of the BlackStar Film Festival in 2015 and his multimedia performance piece Hide/Melt/Ghost made its New York debut at Harlem Stage in 2019. Ramsey hosts the Musiqology Podcast and Musiqology Rx is his community arts initiative that provides quality arts programming to under-served communities. He has written for and consulted with museums and galleries such as The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and was co-curator of the acclaimed exhibition Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment for the National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2010. Dr. Ramsey has lectured on music nationally and internationally.