Ornette Coleman Recording Wins 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Music



Ornette Coleman
Photo courtesy Pulitzer Prizes

Sound Grammar by Ornette Coleman has been awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Music. The $10,000 award is for a distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the previous year. This is the first time in the history of the Pulitzer Prize for Music that the prize was awarded to a recording. Sound Grammar, a collection of live performances recorded in Germany in late 2005 which was released commercially on September 12, 2006 on Coleman’s own label, also named Sound Grammar, is the first recording of new material by Coleman in nearly a decade and his first live recording in 20 years. The disc features a total of eight compositions (six brand new ones plus new versions of “Song X” from 1985 and “Turnaround” from 1959) performed by Ornette Coleman (violin, alto saxophone, trumpet), Greg Cohen and Tony Falanga (bass), and Denardo Coleman (drums).

Also nominated as finalists in this category were: Grendel by Elliot Goldenthal, premiered June 8, 2006, by the Los Angeles Opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, libretto by Julie Taymor and J.D. McClatchy; and Astral Canticle by Augusta Read Thomas, premiered June 1, 2006, by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (G. Schirmer, Inc.).

Jurors for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Music were: Yehudi Wyner, professor of music, Brandeis University, Medford, MA (Chair and past recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in Music); John Schaefer, host, Soundcheck, WNYC Radio; Ingrid Monson, Quincy Jones Professor of African-American Music, Harvard University; David Baker, distinguished professor of music and chair of the Jazz department, Indiana University; and New York Times critic John Rockwell.

In addition, Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism. Swed was cited by the Criticism jurors (Judith Howard, features editor, The Denver Post (Chair); Sasha Anawalt, director, USC Annenberg Arts Journalism Fellowship Programs; Michael Barnes, entertainment editor, Austin American-Statesman; Johanna Keller, director, Goldring Arts Journalism Program, Syracuse, NY; and Joe Morgenstern, film critic, The Wall Street Journal and past recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism) for his “passionate music criticism, marked by resonant writing and an ability to give life to the people behind a performance.” Plus, a Special Citation was posthumously awarded to John Coltrane “for his masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship and iconic centrality to the history of jazz.”