Monday, April 27, 2015

Concerned About the Music Pulitzers? You Should Be.

I have no idea who put together this set of graphs, but holy cow, it raises more than a few questions about the Pulitzer Prizes in music. Just so you don't have to click through, here are the graphs:

If you've been paying attention, you're probably not too surprised by the gender and race composition of those receiving awards. There's plenty more to worry about in the following:

  • The geographic location of the jurors. Fifty-three jurors, 41 from the east coast. Hello! I know that many of us have The New Yorker's View of the World, and I know that the Pulitzers have their home at Columbia, but there are composers, lots of them, who don't live on the east coast and would make good potential jurors. Try for a little geographic diversity here.
  • The geographic location of schools attended by Pulitzer winners. Eighteen of twenty (90%) attended Columbia, Juilliard, Harvard, or Yale. Anyone with a degree from Chicago or Rice or UC Berkeley can just give up! They weren't educated within the correct 250 mile radius.
  • Symphonic works are getting the largest percentage of awards. This preference naturally restricts the award to those few who get orchestral commissions.
  • Minimalism wins, so I hope not to ever hear another complaint about the hegemony of those awful serialists, considering that serialism is nowhere to be found in the last 20 years.


greg b said...

Dear Lisa,
Yes, these graphs are sobering, but the Pulitzer prize for music was first awarded in 1943.
The graphs from THAT year 'til now would no doubt curdle our collective toes.
But what can we do? The big bucks and the big music schools are all on the Boston/NYC/WashDC axis, and the "sayers of the law" are all rich Caucasians who run those schools and have those bucks.
As my dad used to say: "The fix is in".
(disclaimer: I myself am Caucasian, so I hope no one will accuse me of playing a "race card" or some such nonsense.)
- best regards, Greg from SF
PS thanks for your reply to my post on the "Troyens" thread. It's much appreciated. -G.

Anonymous said...

I am a major complainer about the hegemony of the serialists, but I'm referring to the past. I also say that that hegemony is over, and ended at least 20 years ago, although there are pockets in academia where it still holds sway, and the remaining survivors of the hegemony, plus their few remaining acolytes, still act as if they have the One Truth.

Anonymous said...

On second thought, I'll make a tougher comment. According to the chart, 15 of 20 composers "regularly use diatonic collections or make tonal allusions." That means that five out of 20 not only don't write diatonically, they don't even make tonal allusions.

Whether the resulting music is serialist or not strikes me as being of zero consequence. Why should I prefer one form of hopeless sterility over another?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Greg, yeah, the fix is more or less in, although the ground has shifted. Hard to imagine Carter winning a Pulitzer today, and I love his quartets. The stuff in my subsequent posting, especially about the judges in the 40s-60s, is very disturbing.

K, to each his or her own, of course, though I am curious whether you find the Berg sterile. He's lush to my ear regardless of the underlying tone rows.