Safe choices, clean scores, solipsistic reasoning, and the “flavor de jour” grab the prize because we, the jurors, make those choices.
For all the funding of the arts that Philip Morris does, I wish they operated on an older model like that of the Raleigh cigarette stamps…after accumulating enough stamps you could go, “Hey! I’ve got enough for a string quartet commission! A few hundred more and I got me a symphony!”
By Day Three, what would it take for you to remember an applicant whose music you looked at during Day One at 2 p.m. (for three minutes)? … Miraculously, it is a regular occurrence that pieces do stand out.
It’s certainly possible to write an ingratiating piece, but what experienced composer would specifically target a competition jury rather than a performer or an audience?