Steve Reich Wins 2009 Pulitzer Prize

name
Steve Reich, Photo by Jeffrey Herman

Steve Reich has been awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in Music for Double Sextet. The award, for distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the previous calendar year, comes with a $10,000 cash prize.

“It was a completely unexpected surprise,” exclaimed Reich. “I think Double Sextet is definitely one of my best pieces and I’m glad the Pulitzer committee felt the same way.”

Double Sextet, published by Hendon Music/Boosey & Hawkes (BMI), was commissioned by eighth blackbird which premiered it on March 26, 2008 at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia. The 22-minute work, completed in October 2007, is scored alternately for 6-piece ensemble (“Pierrot plus percussion”: flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion) and pre-recorded tape or 12-piece ensemble. The Pulitzer citation describes the piece as “a major work that displays an ability to channel an initial burst of energy into a large-scale musical event, built with masterful control and consistently intriguing to the ear.” Click here to see and hear eighth blackbird’s first rehearsal of Double Sextet and here to see and hear excerpts from their recent record sessions of the work.

Also nominated as finalists for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in Music were: Seven Etudes for Solo Piano, by Don Byron (nottuskegeelike music/BMI), premiered on March 15, 2008 at Hallwall’s Contemporary Art Center, Buffalo, NY, which the jury has characterized as “a deft set of studies that display rhythmic inventiveness and irresistible energy, charm and wit”; and Brion, by Harold Meltzer (Urban Scrawl Music Company/ASCAP), premiered on April 23, 2008 at Merkin Hall, New York City, a sonic portrait of a cemetery in northern Italy which the jury described as “painted with the touch of a watercolorist and marked by an episodic structure and vivid playfulness that offer a graceful, sensual and contemplative experience.”

The jury consisted of: John Schaefer, host, Soundcheck, WNYC Radio, New York, NY (chair); Dwight Andrews, composer and associate professor, music theory and jazz studies, Emory University; Justin Davidson, music critic, New York Magazine; Anthony Davis, composer, University of California-San Diego; and David Lang, composer and co-founder, Bang on a Can, New York, NY.

—FJO