Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pulitzers: Cormac McCarthy, Ornette Coleman, more

Cormac McCarthy deserved a Pulitzer for The Road (see my note, below, about the brilliant, post-apocalyptic novel), and now he's won one. Congrats to McCarthy for his work, and to the Pulitzer committee for their sensible choice of a winner in the fiction category.

Saxophonist/jazz innovator Ornette Coleman also won a Pulitzer, for his Sound Grammar CD, and honorary citations went to two other major, highly deserving artists: Author Ray Bradbury and legendary saxophonist/composer John Coltrane.

The Miami Herald was the sole Florida newspaper to win a Pulitzer this year, and one of only three Southeastern papers to win, along with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Birmingham News.

For the complete list of winners and links to their work, visit the official Pulitzer site.

See? Well-written words and great music still matter to some people.

Check here, and below, for Matthew Westphal's take on some of the awards, published in Playbill Arts:

Pulitzer Prize for Music Goes to Ornette Coleman - Jazz Composition Wins forFirst Time Ever

By Matthew Westphal - April 16, 2007

Sound Grammar, a recording by jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman and his band released in September 2006, has won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Music, which carries a $10,000 cash award. The disc, the first in a decade by thelegendary free jazz pioneer, was recorded live at a 2005 concert in Italy.

The other two finalists for the music prize were Eliot Goldenthal's Grendel,which premiered at Los Angeles Opera on June 8, 2006, and Augusta Reid Thomas's orchestral work Astral Canticle, whose first performance was givenby the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under conductor Daniel Barenboim on June 1, 2006.

Another jazz legend, John Coltrane, won a posthumous special citation fromthe Pulitzer committee for "his masterful improvisation, suprememusicianship and iconic centrality to the history of jazz."

In addition, Los Angeles Times classical music critic Mark Swed was afinalist for the criticism Pulitzer, which was won by L.A. Weekly restaurantcritic Jonathan Gold.

This is the first time ever that a jazz composition has won the PulitzerPrize, one of the most prestigious in the U.S. (Wynton Marsalis, best knownas a jazz musician, received the Pulitzer in 1997 for Blood on the Fields, which is a classical work.) Duke Ellington was given a posthumous citationfor his lifetime's work from the Pulitzer board in 1998; Thelonious Monk received a similar citation last year.

The awards to Coleman and Coltrane, two of the giants of 20th-centuryAmerican music in any genre, reflect a conscious effort by the Pulitzer board to widen the scope of material considered for the prize.

"Going back more than a decade," board member Jay Harris, a professor at the Universityof Southern California, told The Associated Press, "there has been a concernon the Pulitzer board that this unwritten definition [that only classicalmusic be considered] effectively excluded some of the best of Americanmusic," including jazz, musical theater, and film scores. This concern extended to many members of the music community, some of whom argued thatthe Pulitzer was no longer relevant.

To address that situation, the board three years ago made several changes in eligibility guidelines for the music Pulitzer: compositions whose premieres were on recording rather than in performance can now be considered, and entrants may submit a recording in addition to or in lieu of a score.

In addition, the makeup of the jury, which had previously been four composersand a (classical) music critic, was changed to three composers and two other music experts (such as conductors or performers).

The choice of music jurors for 2007 reflects this change in orientation; the members were: Yehudi Wyner, a composer and professor of music at Brandeis University (as well as the winner of last year's Pulitzer Prize for Music); John Schaefer, host of the programs New Sounds and Soundcheck on WNYC New York Public Radio; Ingrid Monson, the Quincy Jones Professor of African-American Music at Harvard University; David Baker, chair of the jazz department at the Indiana University School of Music; and John Rockwell, who recently retired from The New York Times after many years as a critic of rock music, classical music and dance.

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