Tyshawn Sorey Awarded 2024 Pulitzer Prize in Music for “Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith)”

May 7, 2024

Tyshawn Sorey Awarded 2024 Pulitzer Prize in Music for “Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith)”

President Assistant Professor of Music and Composer Tyshawn Sorey has been awarded the 2024 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his work, “Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith).” The Pulitzer Prize in Music is given to a “distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year”



ADAGIO (FOR WADADA LEO SMITH) is ostensibly a concerto for saxophone and orchestra, but in many ways, it is different from its usual format, as concertos are showcases for dazzling displays of virtuosic technique, ad nauseam. Concertos are usually showcases for dazzling displays of virtuosic technique. This work requires a great deal of technique, but of a much more subtle variety.  Instead of rapid-fire outbursts of sixteenth or thirty- second notes the soloist and orchestra are asked to play at the glacial tempo of thirty-six quarter notes per minute. The dynamics are extremely quiet. It is more about introversion than extroversion. The players and the listeners need to settle in for twenty minutes as the work unfolds slowly and quietly with beautiful, sustained harmonies and only slightly less sustained melodies introduced via the orchestra or intermittently by the saxophone soloist. This stately but understated work is a welcome respite from the chaos and intrusiveness of modern life.

ADAGIO (FOR WADADA LEO SMITH) was commissioned by the Lucerne Festival and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. It received its world premiere in Lucerne on August 20, 2022 and its US premiere in Atlanta on March 16, 2023. The soloist for both performances was Timothy McAllister. The US premiere was part of New Music USA’s Amplifying Voices program.

Mr. Sorey has written a series of pieces dedicated to various teachers, mentors and colleagues that he has associated with throughout his studies and subsequently in his career. This piece is dedicated to the trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, with whom he has performed and recorded.

             - from the G. Schirmer/AMP-sponsored entry questionnaire

As of May 6, 2024, an archival, unpublished recording of the work's 2022 Lucerne premiere is available here.

(Link to Pulitzer Page)


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.

Visit Tyshawn Sorey’s Website