Cycles of My Being

Cycles of My Being is a song cycle that centers on what it means to be an African American man living in America today. The cycle was composed by pianist-percussionist Tyshawn Sorey, with lyrics by the award-winning poet Terrance Hayes, both of whom are MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant Winners, and was co-commissioned by Opera Philadelphia, Carnegie Hall, and Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Lyric Unlimited.

Of the creation of the cycle, Brownlee said “The idea started with the injustices we see on a daily basis. We’ve summed it up as being about ‘black male subjectivity.'” Brownlee went on, “It was important for me to do this. I’ve been 20 years as an artist, establishing a career. This was an opportunity to do more of a passion project."

Cycles of My Being had its world premiere on February 20, 2018 in Philadelphia with tenor Lawrence Brownlee, Randall Mitsuo Goosby (violin), Khari Joyner (cello), Alexander Laing (clarinet) Kevin J. Miller (piano), conducted by the composer, Tyshawn Sorey. A piano reduction version premiered in Chicago on February 22, 2018 with tenor Lawrence Brownlee and pianist Myra Huang. Brownlee then went on to tour the cycle at various venues across the United States with Huang, culminating in a performance at Carnegie Hall on April 24, 2018 with the original instrumentalists from the world premiere. Cycles of My Being will have its Washington DC premiere on April 11, 2019 at the Kennedy Center, presented by Vocal Arts DC.

Press Features

Tenor Lawrence Brownlee Performs "Inhale, Exhale" From "Cycles of My Being"

This is the first movement of "Cycles of My Being," a song cycle composed by Tyshawn Sorey, with lyrics by Terrance Hayes. Lawrence Brownlee performed this in The Greene Space, accompanied by pianist Myra Huang.

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Press Quotes

“‘Cycles of My Being’ is a work of both anguish and optimism, at once accusatory and stirring...whose traversal feels like a descent into a maelstrom followed by the emergence out the other side.”
“One of the things you can do as an artist with star power like the tenor Lawrence Brownlee is use that cachet to add to the repertoire.”
“Rare are the classical singers who use their celebrity cachet to help generate new repertory. One shining example is Lawrence Brownlee, who regards the commissioning of music by living composers and sharing it with audiences around the world an essential part of who he is as a performing artist.”
“Sorey’s music allows Brownlee to do what he does best — to soar effortlessly into the vocal stratosphere, nail perfectly placed high notes and invest them with expressive meaning.”
“The experiences of black men in America today are making their way onto the classical concert stage”
“Sorey’s settings are absolutely masterful and fit Brownlee like a glove... it rose to a passionate climax, then faded to a quiet, contemplative close.”
“The piece ends suddenly and quietly. Here is an existential question delivered in a small moment, and the sensation of a larger meaning coming into focus with a musical gesture felt startlingly familiar. It was like Schubert. But of now, and us.”