Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts Announces Grants for 2000

The Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts announced awards of nearly $400,000 on December 5, 2000. The $50,000 John Cage Award for Music, given biennially, went to Gordon Mumma. Eleven grants of $25,000 each were awarded to artists in the United States and abroad. $59,500 was distributed among 20 arts organizations.

Selected by the Foundation Directors from recommendations submitted by nominators who are distinguished artists and arts professionals, this year’s music recipients are György Kurtág, Laetitia Sonami and Julia Wolfe.

Julia Wolfe
Julia Wolfe
Photo by Eliot Caplan

“This is the first time I have received an award of such magnitude, not for a specific project, just as a recognition of past activities,” Wolfe responded in an email. “I am mixed with pride and the feeling that I did not actually deserve it, that so many great artists have been working even longer than me, with so little recognition. The pride came from receiving it from people whom I greatly admire (David Behrman for example), who have influenced me all these years — to receive recognition from them was a great honor. Also, I have always felt very close to New York, because this is where I first started performing twenty years ago, so to receive this award from a New York institution was very rewarding. Sonami reminisced: “Phill Niblock‘s loft was always open for trying new ideas and as a place to receive encouragement.” Sonami now lives in Oakland, but tries to return at least once a year to perform in New York at venues like The Kitchen, Roulette, and Engine 27.

Laetitia Sonami
Laetitia Sonami
Photo by Mark Estes

Sonami claims that she will use the grant money first and foremost “to live,” but that the grant is sizeable enough to finance some other projects, as well. “It will allow me to build a new controller for performance,” she explained, “my lady’s glove is aging ungracefully. It will also allow me to investigate some areas like the live control of video imagery and lights in performance and the live control of miscellaneous objects through the use of motors.” Sonami also plans to share some of the award with Melody Sumner Carnahan, the author with whom she has collaborated since 1980.

Julia Wolfe exclaimed that an award such as this “always comes as a shock!” Wolfe recently wrote the first section a piece for Lionheart featuring a tape of their speaking voices that is combined, in performance, with their live singing. (This first section is entitled Keeper; Wolfe has not yet decided on a title for the entire work.) “That piece cost a bundle to make, because there are a lot of technical requirements.” Wolfe will use the grant money to help fund the “realization” of a new section of the piece that will be performed at a concert at The Performing Garage that she will be sharing with composer Scott Johnson in March 2001.

The John Cage Award for Music, established in 1992 in honor of the late composer, is awarded in recognition of outstanding achievement in contemporary music. Born in 1935, Mr. Mumma spent his early career in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he was co-founder of both the Cooperative Studio for Electronic Music, perhaps the first electronic music facility in the United States, and the now-historic ONCE Festivals of Contemporary Music. He was among the first composers to employ circuitry of his own design in compositions and performance. From 1966 to 1974, he was, with John Cage and David Tudor, a composer-musician with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Since 1966 he has performed with the Sonic Arts Union. His artistic collaborations include work with Anthony Braxton, Marcel Duchamp, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Yvonne Rainer, and Frederic Rzewski. A prolific composer and a virtuoso performer (French horn), Mr. Mumma has taught at universities in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America and is Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Since the Foundation’s inception in 1963, hundreds of artists have donated work to raise funds for these grants. Their continuing support is evident in the “Drawings and Photographs” benefit exhibition being held at the Matthew Marks Gallery in New York City from December 8 to 23, 2000.

The current Directors of the Foundation are: Brooke Alexander, Carolyn Brown, Jasper Johns, Julian Lethbridge, Elizabeth Murray, Phill Niblock, and John Silberman. This year David Behrman joined the Directors in selecting grant recipients in Mr. Niblock’s absence.