Tag: composition prizes

Michael Jackson-Themed Orchestra Piece Wins ASCAP Nissim Prize

Vincent Calianno sitting at a desk and staring at a large orchestral score manuscript.

Vincent Calianno

Vincent Calianno has been awarded the 36th annual ASCAP Foundation Rudolf Nissim Prize for The Facts and Dreams of the World According to Michael Jackson, a 12-minute work for orchestra. Selected by a panel of conductors from among 170 entries, the Brooklyn-based Calianno will receive a prize of $5,000. The jury also awarded Special Distinction to Matthew Browne of Ann Arbor, Michigan, for Kill Screen, a 5-minute work for wind ensemble.

In his program notes for this year’s Nissim Prize-winning piece, Calianno wrote, “The Facts and Dreams of the World According to Michael Jackson is a set of four proverbs (aphorisms, cautionary tales, apothegms) for orchestra. Conceptually, the germ of the piece comes from a dream I had some time ago: In my dream, a terminally ill Michael Jackson commissions an architect to construct a large mausoleum with gardens and galleries within its complex labyrinthine interior. This piece neither celebrates nor lampoons the real Michael Jackson’s public persona or music, but nonetheless reflects upon the gifts, experiences, and wisdom we leave behind to our loved ones when we are laid in the earth.” (An audio recording of the piece can be streamed here.)

Calianno has a diverse catalog that includes opera, large ensemble works, chamber, and electroacoustic music, as well as video works. His long-standing interest in visual media has led him to compose music for short and feature-length films and the silent cinema, as well as for his own film and media work. Recent compositions include When I Dream, Some Letters Fall Out Of My Mouth To Make a Word, which was premiered by the International Contemporary Ensemble, and Bone Chinoiserie and the Alabastard Cowboy for Ensemble 39. Other performers who have commissioned and performed his music include The New York Miniaturist Ensemble, Artifact, The Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, The UIUC New Music Ensemble, The University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra, and The Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra, as well as members of the JACK Quartet, eighth blackbird, and Callithumpian. His media and silent cinema works have been exhibited and performed at such venues as The Banff Centre (Canada), Huddersfield University (U.K.), National Taiwan Normal University (Taiwan), The Juilliard School, and Merkin Concert Hall (NYC). Calianno was a 2015 participant in the ASCAP Foundation Columbia University Film Scoring Workshop.

The judges for this year’s Nissim Prize were: Gemma New, music director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra in Ontario, Canada, associate conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, principal conductor of the Camerata Notturna, and director of the Lunar Ensemble; Gerard Schwarz, music director of the All-Star Orchestra, music director of the Eastern Music Festival in North Carolina, and Jack Benaroya Conductor Laureate of the Seattle Symphony; and Diane Wittry, music director of the Allentown Symphony (PA), artistic director and conductor of the Ridgewood Symphony (NJ), artistic director (USA) for the International Cultural Exchange Program for Classical Musicians through the Sarajevo Philharmonic (Bosnia), and artistic director for Pizazz Music and the Pizzaz Symphony Orchestra.

Dr. Rudolf Nissim, former head of ASCAP’s International Department and a devoted friend of contemporary composers, established this annual prize through a bequest to The ASCAP Foundation. The prize is presented annually to an ASCAP concert composer for a work requiring a conductor that has not been performed professionally.

John Luther Adams Wins 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Music

John Luther Adams
Become Ocean by John Luther Adams has been awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Music. The work, premiered on June 20, 2013, by the Seattle Symphony and published by Taiga Press/Theodore Front Musical Literature (BMI), was described in the citation as “a haunting orchestral work that suggests a relentless tidal surge, evoking thoughts of melting polar ice and rising sea levels.” The prize is for a “distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States” during the previous calendar year and comes with a cash award of ten thousand dollars.


“I’m deeply grateful to the Ludovic Morlot and the musicians of the Seattle Symphony for the bold leap of faith they took with Become Ocean,” said John Luther Adams. “It’s ironic, but I still haven’t heard the piece live. (The day of the premiere I was on the operating table, for emergency eye surgery.) So now I’m listening forward to the upcoming performance in Carnegie Hall, even more than ever.”

Also nominated as finalists in this category were: The Gospel According to the Other Mary by John Adams (Hendon Music, Inc., a Boosey & Hawkes company, BMI), staged version premiered on March 7, 2013, by the Los Angeles Philharmonic; and Invisible Cities by Christopher Cerrone (Outburst-Inburst Musics, ASCAP), staged version premiered on October 19, 2013, by The Industry and L.A. Dance Project in Union Station, Los Angeles.

Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded annually since 1917. The Music Prize was added in 1943 when William Schuman’s Secular Cantata No. 2, “A Free Song” received the first honor. Past prize winning works include Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring (1945), Charles Ives’s Symphony No. 3 (1947, awarded 30 years after its composition), Robert Ward’s opera The Crucible (1962), Charles Wuorinen’s electronic music composition Time’s Encomium (1970), David Del Tredici’s In Memory of a Summer DayChild Alice, Part One (1980), Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s Symphony No. 1 – Three Movements for Orchestra (1983), Wynton Marsalis’s oratorio Blood on the Fields (1997), John Adams’s On The Transmigration of Souls (2003), Ornette Coleman’s recording Sound Grammar (2007), and Jennifer Higdon’s Violin Concerto (2010). Only four composers have ever received the award twice: Walter Piston, for his Third and Seventh Symphonies (1948 and 1961); Gian-Carlo Menotti, for his operas The Consul (1950) and The Saint of Bleecker Street (1955); Samuel Barber, for his opera Vanessa (1958) and his Piano Concerto (1963); and Elliott Carter, for his String Quartets Nos. 2 and 3 (1960 and 1973). Additionally, eight musicals have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Drama including: the George Gershwin-scored Of Thee I Sing (1932), which won prior to the existence of the Music award; Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific (1950); Abe Burrows and Frank Loesser’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1962); Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Sunday in the Park with George (1985); and, most recently, Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt’s Next to Normal (2010). Last year’s winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Music was Caroline Shaw’s Partita for Eight Voices.

As is the case with all Pulitzer prize-winners, the awarded pieces of music are chosen through a two panel process. Each year a different jury (consisting of five professionals in the field and which usually includes at least one previous winner of the award) is convened and selects a total of three finalists from works received for consideration. (Anyone—not only the composer or publisher of the work—can submit a work provided it is accompanied by a $50 entry fee and meets the qualifications of being composed by an American and having had its first performance or recording in the United States during the previous calendar year.) The three finalists are then submitted to the Pulitzer’s 19-member board, consisting mostly of major newspaper editors and executives as well as a few academics. (The board elects its own members who individually serve three-year terms.) The winner is determined by a majority vote of the board. It is possible for the jury not to choose any of the finalists—as was the case for the Music award in the years 1964, 1965, and 1981 resulting in no prize being given. The board can also demand that the jury selects a different work, as was the case in 1992 when the only work the jury submitted to the board was Ralph Shapey’s Concerto Fantastique. (The work which was ultimately awarded the prize that year was Wayne Peterson’s The Face of the Night.)
The jurors for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Music were: Ara Guzelimian, provost and dean, The Juilliard School, New York, NY (Chair); Justin Davidson, classical music and architecture critic, New York Magazine; Jason Moran, pianist and composer, New York, NY; Caroline Shaw, musician, New York, NY; Julia Wolfe, composer and co-founder, Bang on a Can, New York, NY.
To read, watch and listen to a conversation with John Luther Adams for NewMusicBox (recorded in 2011), click here.

Esa-Pekka Salonen Wins $100,000 2014 Nemmers Composition Prize

Esa-Pekka Salonen Photo by Katja Tähjä

Esa-Pekka Salonen
Photo by Katja Tähjä

Esa-Pekka Salonen has been awarded the $100,000 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition, the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University announced today. The biennial award honors “contemporary composers of outstanding achievement who have significantly influenced the field of composition.”

In addition to the cash award, Salonen will have one of his works performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra during the 2015-16 season. He also will interact with Bienen School students and faculty during four residencies on the Northwestern campus over the next two academic years.

“It is with great pride and appreciation that I accept the Nemmers Prize this year,” Salonen said. “The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has long been a musical home away from home for me, and I look forward to developing a relationship with the Northwestern students and faculty. The possibilities at educational institutions are always intriguing, but the Bienen School’s special amalgam of creativity and merit makes this opportunity even more exciting.”

Previous winners of the Nemmers Prize include Aaron Jay Kernis (2012), John Luther Adams (2010), Kaija Saariaho (2008), Oliver Knussen (2006), and John Adams (2004).

The Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition is made possible through bequests from the late Erwin Esser Nemmers, a former member of the Northwestern University faculty, and his brother, the late Frederic E. Nemmers, who also enabled the creation of the Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics and the Frederic Esser Nemmers Prize in Mathematics.
The full announcement and more information about the award and the awardee is available here.

(–from the press release)

Cheung and Shepherd Share In Kravis Prize at NYPhil

Anthony Cheung (Photo by Beowulf Sheehan) and Sean Shepherd (Photo by Jamie Kingham)

Anthony Cheung (Photo by Beowulf Sheehan) and Sean Shepherd (Photo by Jamie Kingham)

Anthony Cheung, French composer Franck Krawczyk, and Hungarian composer/conductor Peter Eötvös will share in the 2011 Marie-Josée Kravis Prize for New Music at the New York Philharmonic at the request of inaugural recipient Henri Dutilleux, the New York Philharmonic has announced. In addition, Sean Shepherd has been named the 2012 Kravis Emerging Composer.

The Kravis Prize for New Music is bestowed every two years “for extraordinary artistic endeavor in the field of new music,” and French composer Henri Dutilleux was named the first recipient in 2011. At the award ceremony held in Paris on December 7, 2011, Dutilleux announced that he would share the $200,000 award with three composers, each of whom would write a work to be performed by the orchestra in his honor. Dates of the performances of these new works will be announced at a later time.

A Kravis Emerging Composer is to be named in years when the Kravis Prize for New Music is not awarded. The “promising up-and-coming” composer will receive $50,000 and an opportunity to write for the orchestra. As the 2012 Kravis Emerging Composer, Sean Shepherd will write a new work for the Philharmonic to be performed in the 2013–14 season.

Funding for The Kravis Prize for New Music comes from a $10 million gift given to the New York Philharmonic in 2009 by Henry R. Kravis in honor of his wife, Marie-Josée, for whom the prize is named, and which also endows The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence at the New York Philharmonic, a position currently held by Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg and soon to be held by Christopher Rouse. Prizewinners are selected by a committee comprising leading artists and administrators with close ties to the Philharmonic and a demonstrated interest in fostering new music. The total award—$200,000 to the winner of The Kravis Prize for New Music and $50,000 to the Kravis Emerging Composer—makes this among the world’s largest new music prizes.

(—from the press release)

Competitions Are For Horses

horse raceEvery lesson with Shulamit Ran at the University of Chicago would begin with her sitting at the desk reading through my new score, internally listening to my music as I anxiously would look around the room. Invariably, my eyes would land on the handwritten sign behind her desk on which was written “’Competitions are for horses, not for artists’—Bela Bartók.” I would be simultaneously heartened and saddened every time I saw this wisdom, which also reminded me of Charles Ives’s famous statement, greatly strengthened by the fact that he uttered these words to the Pulitzer Prize committee in refusing their award, that “prizes are for little boys.”

I’m thinking about composition competitions at the moment for two reasons. First, Paul Mathews’s beautifully written article for NewMusicBox, “The Cycle of Get.” Second, one of my students last week asked me for my help in learning more about appropriate competitions.

My immediate instinct when responding to the student was to repeat the mantra that I learned from one of my previous teachers, which he reiterated at nearly every lesson: “Competitions tell us more about the judges than about the pieces entered.” While I personally have found this statement to be both true and hopeful—for me it implies the necessity of applying for as many things as many times as possible in order to find the right jury for my works—I thought that by itself it might serve to limit the student. Instead, I found myself dispensing more practical advice that perhaps might be useful for the gentle readers of this column.

1.) Yes, composition competitions are very important. You should enter as many as possible. If you keep winning them, you should aim for higher-level awards. Enter ones that you believe you cannot possibly win (as well as ones that you believe you should win)—it’s the only way to ensure that you will find your proper level. Unless you’ve won the Pulitzer and the Grawemeyer, there are always more prestigious awards for which you can try. If you’ve won either the Pulitzer or the Grawemeyer, then you certainly don’t need my advice (but thank you for reading).

2.) Join one of the many organizations like American Composers Forum that publishes listings of available competitions. Read the listings carefully and make certain that your piece is a good match for the written rules. If they ask for specific instrumentation, only submit if your work exactly fits their criteria. Follow their guidelines in terms of length. Your bold art will find a more willing audience if it’s sent to the correct location.

3.) If you are a student who can afford to travel to them, you should apply for summer festivals that offer music composition as a field of study. They can be very expensive but also very useful. Spend some time to find festivals with faculty who you believe best match your aesthetic predilections.

4.) Competitions are a very good reason to have the most beautiful scores possible. They generally receive at least 10 and as many as 100 or more applicants for every prize awarded. Therefore, they look for excuses to dismiss scores. Sometimes they will use improper notation as a reason to stop looking at someone’s music.

5.) Remember that every winning piece will be excellent in some way, but many excellent pieces will lose. The judges for each prize generally change from year to year, as do the entered works, so keep trying for the prizes that are important to you. Winning a competition means that your good work luckily met with a panel that could recognize its innate worth. Losing a competition means that your good work met a panel that didn’t recognize its inherent beauty. Neither success nor failure in competitions should change your perception of the value of your own music. Treat both success and failure lightly.

6.) Yes, entering competitions is important and winning them can be a boost to your career. However, your real job is to become as good of an artist as you possibly can become. You will never be able to control the results of competitions (there is a lot of luck involved in your piece finding the proper panel), but you can always control how much you grow as a composer from one piece to the next. Some of the best composers working today had little success as students and only found their true compositional voice at a later age. Competitions should never be your goal. Your goals should always be about artistry.

Matheson Wins $200,000 Charles Ives Living Award

James MathesonJames Matheson has won the Charles Ives Living award and will receive $200,000 over a two-year period, beginning July 2012.  Although the Charles Ives Living winner agrees to forgo all salaried employment during the award period, there is no restriction on accepting composition commissions.

The award was announced by J. D. McClatchy, president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Matheson responded, “Two years devoted exclusively to composition is a luxury almost beyond my ability to imagine.  My deepest thanks go to the Academy—and to the ghosts of Charles and Harmony Ives—for making possible this astonishing gift of time.”

The selection committee included John Corigliano (chairman), Martin Bresnick, John Harbison, Stephen Hartke, and Tania León. On their selection, Bresnick noted, “James Matheson is a composer of significant accomplishment and even greater imaginative potential.  He is an ideal Ives Living winner—independent, industrious, and poised for a major contribution to American music.”

Matheson was born in 1970 in Des Moines, Iowa, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York.  He became the director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Composer Fellowship Program in September of 2009.  He has received the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship (2008) and the Hinrichsen Award (2002) from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  He was also the recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 2000.  From 2005–2007, Matheson was executive director of the MATA Festival of New Music in New York.  His music has been performed by the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the Chicago and Albany Symphony Orchestras, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Orchestra 2001 (Philadelphia), LA’s Monday Evening Concerts Series, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble.  In December 2007, the Los Angeles Philharmonic presented the West Coast Premiere of Matheson’s Songs of Desire, Love and Loss, which was commissioned by Carnegie Hall and premiered in October 2004 as part of Dawn Upshaw’s Perspectives series.  In February 2008, Antares presented the world premiere of The Anatomy of Melancholy at the Ravinia Festival.  His Violin Concerto, co-commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, will receive its world premiere by the CSO later this month.

The Charles Ives Living was inaugurated in 1998 with the selection of Martin Bresnick.  Chen Yi was the second winner in 2001, Stephen Hartke was the third winner, in 2004, and George Tsontakis followed in 2007.

(—from the press release)