Cory Smythe2022

A performer, composer, and improvisor, pianist Cory Smythe is polylingual in his capacity to move between musical worlds and beyond genres. As an improvisor, his piano performances explode conventional definitions of virtuosity, and his hybrid approach to the instrument uses portable computer music technologies to radically transform its timbral and tonal qualities. A master interpreter, Cory has worked closely with many pioneering artists and composers representing a wide range of aesthetics. A long time member of the new music ensemble, International Contemporary Ensemble, he also plays regularly in the critically acclaimed Tyshawn Sorey Trio, and received a Grammy award for his work with violinist Hilary Hahn.

As a composer, Cory’s intricately designed instrumental and vocal timbres, as well as his intimate sonorities, belie the rigor underlying their construction. Creating sonic affinities that de-familiarize American idioms, Smythe has both drawn from and transformed tunes including Strange Fruit, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Oh! Susanna, and even the Whiffenpoof Song. The conceptual audacity and diversity of expressive means in his compositions – as well as the porousness between written and improvised music - ask both performers and audiences to reevaluate and extend their notions of musicality.

“However quixotically, I'm aiming to make music in meaningful conversation with that of my heroes (Geri Allen, Gerard Grisey, George Lewis...) and, like them, to arouse uniquely powerful, thick experiences of sound and substance.”


photo: Caitlin Ochs