At the Rothko Chapel, Tyshawn Sorey explores sound — and silence
Fifty years ago, composer Morton Feldman wrote music to commemorate the opening of the Rothko Chapel in Houston. A half-century later, composer, conductor, multi-instrumentalist and MacArthur “genius” Tyshawn Sorey was asked to write a new piece for this nondenominational space. Sorey’s Monochromatic Light (Afterlife) debuted Feb. 19 at the Rothko Chapel.
The Rothko Chapel is a mysterious space, one that invites deep contemplation. David Leslie is the chapel’s executive director. He says that as soon as you walk in from a bright, sunny Houston day, through a series of doors into this hushed, dark place, your mind and your body are both forced to shift into a very different, holy space.
“Then you walk into the sanctuary, the inner sanctum, and suddenly what you’re struck by is not a large space,” Leslie observes, “but this real sense of lightness of being.”
The dome of the chapel is a skylight that allows the natural light to fall upon 14 massive, dark panels painted by American artist Mark Rothko. Sorey says that he hopes his music gives listeners the same feeling of being enveloped, in the same way that Rothko’s huge paintings provide. —Anastasia Tsioulcas
Photo: Scott Dalton/DACAMERA