Vincent Calianno has been awarded the 36th annual ASCAP Foundation Rudolf Nissim Prize for The Facts and Dreams of the World According to Michael Jackson, a 12-minute work for orchestra. Selected by a panel of conductors from among 170 entries, the Brooklyn-based Calianno will receive a prize of $5,000. The jury also awarded Special Distinction to Matthew Browne of Ann Arbor, Michigan, for Kill Screen, a 5-minute work for wind ensemble.
In his program notes for this year’s Nissim Prize-winning piece, Calianno wrote, “The Facts and Dreams of the World According to Michael Jackson is a set of four proverbs (aphorisms, cautionary tales, apothegms) for orchestra. Conceptually, the germ of the piece comes from a dream I had some time ago: In my dream, a terminally ill Michael Jackson commissions an architect to construct a large mausoleum with gardens and galleries within its complex labyrinthine interior. This piece neither celebrates nor lampoons the real Michael Jackson’s public persona or music, but nonetheless reflects upon the gifts, experiences, and wisdom we leave behind to our loved ones when we are laid in the earth.” (An audio recording of the piece can be streamed here.)
Calianno has a diverse catalog that includes opera, large ensemble works, chamber, and electroacoustic music, as well as video works. His long-standing interest in visual media has led him to compose music for short and feature-length films and the silent cinema, as well as for his own film and media work. Recent compositions include When I Dream, Some Letters Fall Out Of My Mouth To Make a Word, which was premiered by the International Contemporary Ensemble, and Bone Chinoiserie and the Alabastard Cowboy for Ensemble 39. Other performers who have commissioned and performed his music include The New York Miniaturist Ensemble, Artifact, The Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, The UIUC New Music Ensemble, The University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra, and The Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra, as well as members of the JACK Quartet, eighth blackbird, and Callithumpian. His media and silent cinema works have been exhibited and performed at such venues as The Banff Centre (Canada), Huddersfield University (U.K.), National Taiwan Normal University (Taiwan), The Juilliard School, and Merkin Concert Hall (NYC). Calianno was a 2015 participant in the ASCAP Foundation Columbia University Film Scoring Workshop.
The judges for this year’s Nissim Prize were: Gemma New, music director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra in Ontario, Canada, associate conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, principal conductor of the Camerata Notturna, and director of the Lunar Ensemble; Gerard Schwarz, music director of the All-Star Orchestra, music director of the Eastern Music Festival in North Carolina, and Jack Benaroya Conductor Laureate of the Seattle Symphony; and Diane Wittry, music director of the Allentown Symphony (PA), artistic director and conductor of the Ridgewood Symphony (NJ), artistic director (USA) for the International Cultural Exchange Program for Classical Musicians through the Sarajevo Philharmonic (Bosnia), and artistic director for Pizazz Music and the Pizzaz Symphony Orchestra.
Dr. Rudolf Nissim, former head of ASCAP’s International Department and a devoted friend of contemporary composers, established this annual prize through a bequest to The ASCAP Foundation. The prize is presented annually to an ASCAP concert composer for a work requiring a conductor that has not been performed professionally.