Tag: award announcements

Phill Niblock & Elodie Lauten Receive Top FCA Awards

Phill Niblock and Elodie Lauten

2014 Foundation of Contemporary Arts honorees Phill Niblock and Elodie Lauten

Earlier this year, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts announced the winners of their biennial John Cage Award and their second Robert Rauschenberg Award, plus 14 additional Grants to Artists awards in the disciplines of dance, music/sound, performance art/theatre, poetry, and visual arts. All in all, the 2014 awards total $500,000.

Selected by FCA’s directors, the 2014 Cage Award recipient is Phill Niblock (New York, NY). The John Cage Award is made biennially in recognition of outstanding achievement in the arts for work that reflects the spirit of John Cage. This prestigious $50,000 award was established in 1992 in honor of the late composer, who was one of FCA’s founders. The selection is made from among invited nominations. Previous recipients of the John Cage Award have primarily been composers, including Robert Ashley, David Behrman, Earle Brown, Takehisa Kosugi, Gordon Mumma, Pauline Oliveros, David Tudor, and Christian Wolff. However, it has also been awarded to conceptual artist William Anastasi, video artist Charles Atlas, and digital artist Paul Kaiser.
The foundation’s second annual Robert Rauschenberg Award was given to composer Elodie Lauten (New York, NY). The unrestricted $30,000 award, FCA’s first endowed grant, was permanently endowed by The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in 2012 to honor the artist’s legacy of innovation, risk-taking, and experimentation. Rauschenberg was one of FCA’s original contributing artists and was generous to FCA throughout his life. It is awarded each year through a confidential nomination process. The inaugural Rauschenberg awardee was choreographer Trisha Brown.

Three composers were among the 2014 FCA Grants to Artists honorees—James Fei (Oakland, CA), Jeph Jerman (Cottonwood, AZ), and John King (New York, NY). They will each receive unrestricted grants of $30,000.

Awardees are nominated confidentially by prominent artists and arts professionals and selected by the directors of the foundation and noted members of the arts community. The other 2014 recipients are: choreographers Lance Gries (New York, NY), Trajal Harrell (New York, NY), Heather Kravas (Seattle, WA), and Okwui Okpokwasili (Brooklyn, NY); poets Ted Greenwald (New York, NY) and Eileen Myles (New York, NY); visual artist Wardell Milan (New York, NY) and film-maker Cauleen Smith (Chicago, IL); and for performance art/theatre, Matthew Goulish and Lin Hixson, co-founders of the collaborative performance groups Goat Island and Every house has a door (Chicago, IL), director Annie-B Parson (Brooklyn NY), and actress Black-Eyed Susan (New York NY).
Founded by John Cage and Jasper Johns in 1963 and guided by artists ever since, FCA’s mission is to encourage, sponsor, and promote innovative work in the arts created and presented by individuals, groups, and organizations. Artists working in dance, music/sound, performance art/theater, poetry, and the visual arts are awarded nonrestrictive grants to use at their own discretion; arts organizations receive project or general operating support by application; and a fund is maintained to help artists with work-related emergencies. Over the last half century since FCA’s inception, nearly 900 artists have donated work to raise funds for these grants. The current directors of the foundation are: Brooke Alexander, Cecily Brown, Robert Gober, Anne Dias Griffin, Agnes Gund, Jasper Johns, Julian Lethbridge, Glenn Ligon, Kara Walker, and T.J. Wilcox.

FCA will publish a booklet profiling the 2014 grantees in March. Their curriculum vitae and other information will be available on FCA’s website at that time.

(—from the press release)

David Lang and Alvin Singleton to be Inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters

Alvin Singleton and David Lang

Alvin Singleton and David Lang

The American Academy of Arts and Letters has announced that composers David Lang and Alvin Singleton will be among the nine new members inducted during its annual induction and award ceremony in mid-May. The Academy, which was established in 1904, strives to always maintain a membership of 250 Americans from the disciplines of art (including visual artists and architects), literature (including playwrights, poets, and writers of fiction and non-fiction), and music (composers from several genres). Membership is for life and new members from each discipline are only inducted when a member from that discipline dies. Only current members may nominate and elect new members. Since 1929, the Academy also maintains a foreign honorary membership of 75 writers, composers, painters, sculptors, and architects who have all the rights and privileges of membership except the right to vote. In 1983, the Academy established a further category of American honorary membership (which is also non-voting) to include Americans of great distinction in the arts whose work falls outside the traditional departments of Art, Literature, and Music; American honorary membership is currently capped at ten people.

In addition to Lang and Singleton, British composer Thomas Adès and Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg will be inducted as Foreign Honorary Members. Other new inductees include: American artists Robert Adams, Ann Hamilton, and Bill Jensen; American writers Wendell Berry, Ha Jin, Denis Johnson, and Tobias Wolff; foreign writers John Banville, Haruki Murakami, and Colm Tóibín; Japanese architect Toyo Ito; British painter Leon Kossoff; and American chef/restauranteur Alice Waters.
A complete list of current and past members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters is available on their website.

(—from the press release)

Marin Alsop, Frances Richard & Steven Schick to Receive ACF Champion of New Music Awards

The 2014 ACF Champions of New Music: Marin Alsop, Fran Richard and Steven Schick

The 2014 ACF Champions of New Music: Marin Alsop, Frances Richard, and Steven Schick

The American Composers Forum’s board of directors has voted to present three 2014 Champion of New Music awards. Conductor Marin Alsop, retired ASCAP Vice President of Concert Music Frances Richard, and percussionist Steven Schick will each receive their award from ACF President and CEO John Nuechterlein at public ceremonies this spring. The Champion of New Music award was established by ACF in 2005 as a national mark of recognition to honor individuals or ensembles that have made a significant contribution to the work and livelihoods of contemporary composers.

The award to Steven Schick will be given on Saturday, April 5, 2014, during a concert by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra conducted by Schick, at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The award to Frances Richard will be given on Thursday, May 22, 2014, at the ASCAP Concert Music Awards ceremony at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City. The award to Marin Alsop will be given on Friday, June 6, 2014, during the 8:00 p.m. concert by the Baltimore Symphony at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, Maryland.

Past recipients of the Champion of New Music award include the JACK Quartet (2012), eighth blackbird (2011), Bill Ryan and the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble (2010), Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra (2009), Philip Brunelle and VocalEssence (2009), Bruce Carlson and The Schubert Club (2007), Dale Warland and the Dale Warland Singers (2006), and Cindy Gehrig and the Jerome Foundation (2005).

(—from the press release)

What Would Grammys Look Like in a Genre-Less World?

Understandably, a lot of attention among music-minded people this week has been focused on the 2014 Grammy Awards. It’s a blue chip event that is always nationally-televised during prime time and this year it attracted over 28 million viewers. But these awards are something of an anomaly in a society where there ceases to be less and less of a normative American culture and where the mainstream media continues to have less and less of an impact on how people get their information. The Grammy way of compartmentalizing music into a dazzling array of ever more meaningless-seeming genre categories often feels forced. And, though lip service (if not actual airtime) is given to a whole host of musical traditions from Tejano to bluegrass to opera, Album of the Year and Record of the Year (for a single) are still the most important awards and are inevitably given to commercial popular music, making all the other awards somehow feel like consolation prizes.

In 2011, there was quite a kerfuffle among “beliebers” when jazz bassist, vocalist, and composer Esperanza Spalding beat out Justin Bieber for the Best New Artist Grammy, since jazz was not supposed to get such a mainstream endorsement. It actually made me very hopeful. An award like Best New Artist (aside from perniciously promulgating the specious concept of a “best”) at least does not attempt to segregate music according to marketers’ notions of who the potential audience for it will be, so theoretically it could be won by someone making any possible kind of music. The award this year, of course, went to the duo of rapper Macklemore and DJ Ryan Lewis. Their “Same Love,” a persuasive rebuttal of the all too frequent homophobia and misogyny in hip hop lyrics, ultimately did not snag the “Best Song” award, though as everyone who has interacted with news media this week already knows, their performance of it during the Grammy ceremony while Queen Latifah officiated weddings of 33 couples, both heterosexual and homosexual, stole the show.

But all of this made me wonder: how might the Grammy Awards operate if they jettisoned the whole concept of genre distinctions? The fear, which is justifiable given the history of these awards, is that if the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences were to eliminate all of these various niche specificities, the only music that would receive their kudos, and ultimately all the publicity that comes along with that, would be “pop songs” since they are allegedly the most “popular.” But we all know that popularity is coded language for “commercial viability,” something that is difficult to fairly access since—in our society—how something gets propelled into the public consciousness to the point of being able to be a “hit” is largely the result of well-coordinated and well-financed promotional efforts.

Loads of people used to complain about how Tower Records’ classical music department was hermetically sealed off from the rest of the store, something which further fostered the notion that only initiates were welcome there. But at least that extremely well-stocked department was in a store that contained all other kinds of music. Compare that to the paucity of selections offered in stores that don’t have separate departments. This is not just an issue limited to “classical” music. As for the Grammys, back in 2011, the Recording Academy downsized its awards from 109 to 78 categories and music that was formerly called attention to further receded into oblivion. I, for one, miss the polkas!

After those 31 awards were eliminated, Bobby Sanabria, whose funny and poignant anecdotes livened up one of the plenary panels I attended at the 2014 Chamber Music America, led a crusade to have NARAS reinstate the Latin Jazz Grammy and he succeeded. Paquito D’Rivera, a remarkable musician who can navigate his way both compositionally and interpretively through any musical tradition, fetched this year’s honors. So that’s a victory, but it’s somehow bittersweet in that it puts a limit around how people who watched the awards will identify him. I was delighted that Maria Schneider, a previous winner in the jazz category, was the recipient of the award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition and that Cyndi Lauper—who had previously been nominated for Best Female Rock Vocal, Best Traditional Blues, and Best Dance Recording and won Best New Artist back in 1985—won this year for Best Musical Theatre Album. And yet, there’s another best composition award called “Best Instrumental Composition” (usually reserved for non-classical recordings despite the fact that most of the winners of the Best Classical Contemporary Composition category have been non-vocal). The 2014 winner for this category was Pensamientos for Solo Alto Saxophone and Chamber Orchestra by the late Clare Fischer (1928-2012), among the favorite composition students of H. Owen Reed (whom we paid tribute to on NewMusicBox earlier this week). Though Fischer was “classically trained” and Pensamientos was composed for and performed by “classical” musicians, Fischer also worked with Prince and Celine Dion which I suppose made his composition qualify for this “non-classical” honor.

Many of the most creative minded people in American music cannot be pigeon-holed. By awarding their achievements on the basis of such specification, we are ultimately doing a disservice to their achievements.

2013 ASCAP Foundation Awards Announced

Jaime Bernstein presenting Amy Beth Kirsten with the Leonard Bernstein Award, Photo by by Scott Wintrow courtesy ASCAP

Jamie Bernstein presenting Amy Beth Kirsten with the Leonard Bernstein Award. Photo by Scott Wintrow, courtesy ASCAP.

On December 11, 2013, award-winners in over 50 categories spanning composers writing for symphony orchestra and chamber ensembles, jazz groups, musical theatre, film and television, as well as rock, R&B, country and children’s songwriters, were honored at the ASCAP Foundation’s 18th Annual Awards Ceremony, which was held at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Allen Room in the Time Warner Building in New York City.

The top award of the evening, the Champion Award, was awarded to R&B songwriter, recording artist and record producer Ne-Yo. The inaugural George M. Cohan Award, presented to “a multi-talented individual connected to the music industry who [like Cohan] has had a multi-faceted career and has achieved success in a variety of roles,” was given to Martin Charnin; though probably best known as the lyricist for the Broadway musical Annie, Charnin sang and danced in the original cast of West Side Story, has directed plays, and has composed music as well.

Stephen Feigenbaum performing his Elegy for violin and piano with Jessica Oddie

Stephen Feigenbaum performing his Elegy for violin and piano with Jessica Oddie. Photo by Scott Wintrow, courtesy ASCAP.

Since there was not enough time to present awards to all the 2013 honorees during the fast-paced two-hour ceremony, many were given their awards in advance. But all honorees were listed in the program booklet and every recipient who was present was asked to stand at the beginning of the proceedings. As a result of freeing up time that would have spent giving out so many awards, the audience got an opportunity to hear performances by a broad range of the winners.

Brittain Ashford accompanied by Dave Malloy.

Brittain Ashford accompanied by Dave Malloy. Photo by Scott Wintrow, courtesy ASCAP.

Among the highlights was a performance of Elegy for violin and piano by 2013 Morton Gould Young Composer Award-winner Stephen Feigenbaum featuring the composer at the piano accompanying violinist Jessica Oddie. Brittain Ashford, who is the cast of the off-Broadway musical Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812 performed a song from the show accompanied at the piano by its composer Dave Malloy, recipient of the 2013 Richard Rodgers New Horizons Award. Jazz composer/multi-instrumentalist Camille Thurman, recipient of the Phoebe Jacobs Prize, led a riveting performance by an all-female quartet which also included pianist Miki Hayama, bassist Mimi Jones, and drummer Shirazette Tinnin.

But the showstopper—at least for me—was a trip-hop infused group fronted by Kiah Victoria, winner of the Desmond Child Anthem Award, whose beat-driven music seamlessly traversed several different tempos.

Kiah Victoria with Jesse Bielenberg, Mike Haldeman, Rahm Silverglade, and Dillon Tracey.

Kiah Victoria with Jesse Bielenberg, Mike Haldeman, Rahm Silverglade, and Dillon Tracey. Photo by Scott Wintrow, courtesy ASCAP.

Peter Stoller presenting the Leiber and Stoller Music Scholarship to Alexis Hatch. Photo by Scott Wintrow, courtesy ASCAP.

Peter Stoller presenting the Leiber and Stoller Music Scholarship to Alexis Hatch. Photo by Scott Wintrow, courtesy ASCAP.

Of course, there were standout award presentations as well. It was particularly thrilling to see Jamie Bernstein bestow the 2013 Leonard Bernstein award on Amy Beth Kirsten (who is well-known to readers of these pages) and, as per previous Foundation Award ceremonies, Mike Stoller’s son Peter Stoller stole the show with the comedic monologue he rattled off (in which he actually referenced Charles Ives) prior to presenting the Leiber and Stoller Music Scholarship to violinist Alexis Hatch.
A complete list of the 2013 ASCAP Foundation Awardees is here.

Some Additional 2014 Grammy Nominations

The Recording Academy has announced the nominees for the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards which will be given on January 28, 2014. While mainstream media outlets have called attention to Jay Z’s nine nominations as well as contenders such as “Blurred Lines” (the Robin Thicke song and not the 10-minute microtonal violin and harpsichord duo by Canadian composer John Beckwith), there have been fewer reports about nominees in other categories and there are a total of 82 of them this time around.

At New Music USA, we were pleased to see that its Cary Program grant awardee Roomful of Teeth has been nominated for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance for their debut album on New Amsterdam Records. Another New Amsterdam release, Darcy James Argue’s album Brooklyn Babylon, which New Music USA funded through its CAP-Recording Program is up for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. (Argue has been featured in NewMusicBox both as a writer and an interviewee.) In addition, Evelyn Glennie has been nominated for Best Classical Instrumental Solo on a recording of John Corigliano’s Conjurer featuring the Albany Symphony, a participant in the New Music USA-League of American Orchestras Music Alive program.
I’m also intrigued by another nominee for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance, the quartet of Vicki Ray, William Winant, Aron Kallay, and Tom Peters who have been nominated for their realization of John Cage’s The 10,000 Things which, enabled by a custom I Ching Player, offers over 25 hours of listening to every possible combination of simultaneous performances of five Cage compositions: 31’57.9864” for a pianist; 27’10.55” for a percussionist; 34’46.776” for a pianist; 26’1.1149” for a string player; and 45’ for a speaker (from a long lost 1962 recording of John Cage reading). If this wins it will mark the first-ever Grammy Award for music by John Cage.

A highlight of Roomful of Teeth’s CD, Caroline Shaw’s Partita (which was the winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music), has been nominated for Best Contemporary Classical Composition as have Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Violin Concerto and Maria Schneider’s Winter Morning Walks (additionally, Dawn Upshaw’s performance of it has been nominated for Best Classical Vocal Solo) plus works by Arvo Pärt (Adam’s Lament) and Magnus Lindberg (Piano Concerto No. 2).

Albums by Gary Burton, Terri Lyne Carrington, Gerald Clayton, Kenny Garrettm, and Christian McBride are all in the running for Best Jazz Instrumental Album while the nominees for Best Improvised Jazz Solo are Terence Blanchard, Paquito D’Rivera, Fred Hersch, Donny McCaslin, and Wayne Shorter. Multiple Grammy Award winning film composers John Williams and Thomas Newman will be competing for the category now named Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media along with Canadian composer Mychael Danna, Scottish composer Craig Armstrong and French composer Alexandre Desplat (who is actually competing against himself since his scores for both Argo and Zero Dark Thirty made the cut). But this year there are only three nominees for Best Musical Theatre Album: the cast albums for Kinky Boots (featuring music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper), Matilda (music and lyrics by Tim Minchin), and Motown: The Musical, a jukebox musical compiling songs by numerous authors.

And, as several commenters have remarked below, the debut recording of the Maryland-based chamber orchestra inscape, which features world premiere recordings of six works by three composers (Nathan Lincoln-DeCusatis, Joseph Hallman, and Justin Boyer) and has previously been featured on NewMusicBox, has been nominated in the Best Surround Sound Album category. It’s particularly thrilling when an album of new music gets nominated outside the ghetto of the classical categories!
A complete guide to all the nominees can be found on the official website for the Grammys.

Vijay Iyer & Jeremy Denk Among 2013 MacArthur Fellows

Denk and Iyer

Jeremy Denk (left) and Vijay Iyer (right)

The MacArthur Foundation announced its 2013 Fellows this morning. Among the 24 are two musicians, jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer (who was profiled on NewMusicBox in 2010) and classical pianist/writer Jeremy Denk (who wrote in NewMusicBox about composer-performer resentment in 2008). To learn more about this year’s honorees, who have been recognized for their exceptional achievements in the arts and sciences, go to macfound.org.