Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Music Pulitzer Board Strikes Again

The Pulitzers were announced and it was awarded posthumously to Thelonius Monk. Okay. It seems that the sole purpose of the Pulitzer Prize for Music is to piss people off. I love Monk, but this seems kind of shallow. The music Pulitzer has been a sore spot for some time and many attempts have been made to change it. (See "Sour Note" by Fred Kaplan for a synopsis of the changes and "controversy.") But whatever the powers-that-be do, somebody is always unhappy.

Okay, I originally had a really long post in which I got all musicological-like but I do not want to alienate my non musical readers. For those of you that would like to get into a good debate, read the article, check out the list of music and Pulitzer winners, and consider my (very reduced) thoughts on music Pulitzers.
  1. By giving a posthumous Pulitzer, the board is basically saying that there were no worthy new works.
  2. Did the Pulitzer board pull Monk's name out of a hat? Why not Coleman, Coltrane, Davis, Parker, etc?
  3. As long as there is only one Pulitzer for "Music,"no matter what the criteria states somebody will be unhappy. Why is there only one Pulitzer? There are many different categories for books, so why not music? Yes, this would be dividing music into definable categories, but at least it would not be catering to only elitist audiences or to only popular audiences.

2 comments:

croust said...

There's a Pulitzer Prize for Music? Huh. You'd think that, as a musicologist studying 20th-century music, I might have come across that at some point.

My first reaction is similar to Kaplan's and yours. My second (influenced by having read through 30 years of literary journals) is that pretty much all of the big awards like this are awarded based on petty politicking and "old-boy" networks. As another example, read Anne Proulx's article from the "Guardian" on March 11, 2006 (it's called "Blood on the Red Carpet" and is still easy to find through Google). The bottom line is that she (even more so than Kaplan) seemed to think that Oscars are actually awarded solely based on merit.

Does anybody know of a major award that does not involve behind-the-scenes politicking? An award that is actually given based on the merit of an artwork (be it music, film, literature, or whatever)? Please, warm the heart of this young cynic!

Joe said...

Yeah, I agree that major awards are based on "petty politicking." I guess I have just followed the Music Pulitzer more closely than others because of my interests. This is the second time in the last few years that it has really struck a discordant note with me, though. (Sorry for the bad pun.) The other was John Adam's award a couple of years ago. I love John Adams but the 9/11 piece was far from one of his better works, and I questioned the sentimental reasoning of giving it to this particluar work. (So did he.)