Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

by Christopher Little
Herewith, the first of several posts on Louisville, which will host the national meeting of the American Musicological Society in November. It's a happening place.
Well, not actually a million. But if $100,000 will satisfy, travel to Louisville, Kentucky. Site of the 2015 AMS National Meeting, the largest city in Kentucky is also home to the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, the largest monetary prize in the world of art music composition. (It even rates multiple mentions in Grove, under “Awards,” “Louisville,” and “Libraries, §7(ii): Canada and the USA.”)

The Music Composition Award is one of a quintet collectively known as the Grawemeyer Awards™, founded in 1984 by philanthropist H. Charles Grawemeyer “to help make the world a better place” (website home HERE; with links to history, rules, etc.) This “industrialist, entrepreneur, astute investor, and philanthropist” gave an initial endowment of $9 million to his alma mater, the University of Louisville. A year after its creation, the first award for Music Composition was given to Witold Lutosławski for his Third Symphony (1985).

H. Charles Grawemeyer
Though a chemical engineer by trade who attended the University of Louisville’s Speed Scientific School during the Great Depression because he could not afford to study outside his hometown, Grawemeyer “cherished the liberal arts and chose to honor powerful ideas in five fields in performing arts, the humanities, and the social sciences.” Thus, after the initial Music Composition category, Ideas Improving World Order was added in 1988, Education in 1989, Religion in 1990 (as a joint award with the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary), and finally Psychology in 2000.

To recognize Grawemeyer’s own amateur status, each award committee is set up so that laypersons have a voice during the deliberations. The process for the Music Composition Award is as follows: “after an initial screening [by University of Louisville music faculty], the Grawemeyer Music Award Committee will appoint a jury of three internationally recognized music professionals: normally a composer, a conductor, and a critic. Each juror will select, from the qualifying scores, up to three works they deem worthy of the Award.” These selected works are then submitted anonymously to the Final Committee [of “non-professional, but knowledgeable” laypersons to be judged by listening only. The Final Committee then recommends one of these works to the president of the University of Louisville, upon which the president and Board of Trustees grant the Award.

Candidates must be living composers, and the work in question must be “in a large musical genre: choral, orchestral, chamber, electronic, song-cycle, dance, opera, musical theater, extended solo work and more. The award will be granted for a work premiered during the five-year period prior to the award date.” No composer is allowed to nominate his or her own entry but must be submitted by “a professional musical organization or individual (performer or performing group, conductor, critic, publisher, or head of a professional music school or department).”

The nominated score, a recording of the work, and documentation of the premiere are sent to the Grawemeyer Music Award Committee. The university retains all the submitted scores and recordings, housing them in the Grawemeyer Collection of New Music, a part of the Library of the School of Music. The collection presently includes over 2,500 entries, many of which are unpublished and unavailable elsewhere. (The collection is searchable online here.) Previous winners include Györgi Ligeti (Etudes for Piano, 1986), Joan Tower (Silver Ladders, 1990), John Corigliano (First Symphony, 1991), John Adams (Violin Concerto, 1995), Kaija Saariaho (L’amour de loin, 2003), and Peter Lieberson (Neruda Songs, 2008). The 2015 award was given to Wolfgang Rihm for the orchestral IN-SCHRIFT-II.

The entry form is available HERE. Meanwhile the Collection of New Music staff cordially invites visitors to Louisville to come have a look. They promise research topics in abundance.

Christopher Little is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Kentucky writing his dissertation on the persistence of Romantic sensibilities and style in England during the early twentieth century.

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