Tyshawn Sorey & Natacha Diels Are Newly Appointed Penn Faculty, Joining This Fall 2020

June 8, 2020

The Department of Music is delighted to announce that Natacha Diels and Tyshawn Sorey will be joining our faculty this Fall. Natacha Diels, a founding member of the innovative ensemble, Pamplemousse, describes her compositional practice as combining “choreographed movement, improvisation, video, instrumental practice, and cynical play to create worlds of curiosity and unease.” Her compositional vision focuses on integrating visual arts, installation, and sound art, and exploring collaboration, irony, and whimsy as useful and productive spaces for musical reflections on the human condition. Tyshawn Sorey, a MacArthur Fellow in 2017, combines his skills as a multi-instrumentalist with his radical vision for composition. Working at the intersections of improvisation and composition, exploring the limits of virtuosity, and creatively rethinking the possibilities and limits of art music and jazz, Sorey performs and composes across boundaries. Sorey also mobilizes his music as a platform for political and social commentary. We are beyond thrilled to welcome Natacha and Tyshawn to our community this Fall.


Tyshawn Sorey’s (he/him/his) wide ranging work has spanned a multitude of musical and performance mediums, while at the same time defying distinctions between musical genres, composition, and improvisation. An active drum set player, percussionist, trombonist, pianist, conductor, educator, and ensemble leader, Sorey has released twelve recordings that feature his work as a composer, improviser, multi-instrumentalist and conceptualist. 
Sorey is a creative artist whose work is impossible to categorize. He has maintained a lifelong interest in establishing an alternative musical model that celebrates genre mobility as an artistic ideal and a compositional attitude, both within and outside of the improvisation-composition continuum. As an artist whose creative output has been rendered “unpredictable to the point of unnerving” (The New Yorker), Sorey’s written and spontaneously composed works can range from lyrical, expressive content to slowly unfolding, barely inaudible sonorities and gestures. Moreover, his music can also contain raucous, maximalist structures that are influenced by noise, death metal, and fast-paced improvisations. Finally, his music also largely deals heavily in multiple streams of black American music – including improvisation and groove-oriented vernacular musics – as well as West African, Afro-Cuban, and Asian folkloric, ritual, and ceremonial traditional musics and practices. 
Tyshawn 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 cites Fred Lerdahl, George Lewis, and Anthony Braxton among his principal teachers.
Sorey’s many collaborations include recordings, premieres, and performances with past and present seminal figures in contemporary music, including Braxton, Lewis, Vijay Iyer, John Zorn, Olga Neuwirth, Roscoe Mitchell, Julia Bullock, Butch Morris, Stephen Gosling, Jen Shyu, Jason Moran, Nicole Mitchell, Peter Evans, Steve Lehman, Marilyn Crispell, Fay Victor, Val-Inc, Klangforum Wien, Wadada Leo Smith, Evan Parker, the Lucerne Festival Players, Muhal Richard Abrams, Myra Melford, Matana Roberts, HPrizm of Antipop Consortium, Joe Morris, and Claire Chase, among many others. He has composed numerous works for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the International Contemporary Ensemble, PRISM Quartet, JACK Quartet, TAK Ensemble, the McGill-McHale Trio, bass-baritone Davone 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. He is currently Composer-in-Residence at Opera Philadelphia and for the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Upcoming projects include a work for violinist Jennifer Koh and chamber orchestra, a short work for pianist Awadagin Pratt and vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, a project for the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players and Ensemble Intercontemporain, a recording with a new self-formed electroacoustic ensemble, and an extended composition commemorating the 50thanniversary of the Rothko Chapel featuring Kim Kashkashian, Steve Schick, Sarah Rothenberg, and the Houston Chamber Choir.
Tyshawn Sorey was recently named a 2018 United States Artists Fellow and a 2017 MacArthur Fellow. Among other honors he has received include two grants from the Shifting Foundation, a Robert Rauschenberg artists residency, a performance residency at The Kitchen the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Impact Award, two residency grants from the Jerome Foundation in partnership with Roulette Intermedium, a residency at the 17th annual Other Minds Festival, and a Van Lier Fellowship.


For more, visit Tyshawn Sorey's website.


Natacha Diels’ work combines choreographed movement, improvisation, video, instrumental practice, and cynical play to create worlds of curiosity and unease. Recent work includes Papillon and the Dancing Cranes, for construction cranes and giant butterfly (Borealis Festival 2018); and forthcoming is a 6-part TV-style miniseries with the JACK quartet (TimeSpans Festival 2020) and a collaborative work for shadowed audience with Ensemble Pamplemousse (Darmstadt 2020). With a focus on collage, collaboration, and the ritual of life as art, Natacha’s compositions have been described as “a fairy tale for a fractured world” (Music We Care About) and “the liveliest music of the evening” (LA Review of Books). 


Natacha is a founding member of the composer/performer collective Ensemble Pamplemousse (est. 2003). Pamplemousse specializes in unique aspects of new music composition, from complex virtuosic instrumental performance to experimental theatre to electronic and robotic performance. 


Notable commissions include those from Borealis Festival for the aforementioned crane opera; the Fromm Foundation for an upcoming work for Talea Ensemble (2021); Nadar Ensemble for Darmstadt International Summer Institute [performed installation: I Love Myself Fully and Unconditionally] (2018); the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the green Umbrella Series [Laughing to Forget] (2018); and Deustchland Radio Kultur in Berlin for Ensemble Adapter [Sad Music for Lonely People] (2019). Other major activities include being chosen as artist-in-residence for Harvestworks in partnership with MATA festival (summer 2019) and a release by Ensemble Pamplemousse on which Natacha is featured as composer, performer, and video producer (Lost at Sea, TAK Editions 2019). Natacha’s work has been performed globally by Ensemble Adapter, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Nadar Ensemble, hand werk, Ensemble Decoder, TAK Ensemble, Quatuor Impact, JACK Quartet; and soloists Jay Campbell, Laura Cocks, Samuel Favre, Ross Karre, Rane Moore, and Charlotte Mundy, among others. She has created several short films and music videos which have been screened in Denmark, NYC, Chicago, Budapest, and Hungary.


Natacha holds degrees in performance, digital media, and composition from New York University and Columbia University. 

For more, visit Natach Diel's website.