Pondering the Pulitzer Prize, women composers, and progress

Posted on: April 14, 2017

“ ‘OH YASSSSS!!!’ the composer Alexandra Gardner tweeted on Monday afternoon,” writes Will Robin in Thursday’s (4/13) New Yorker. “The Pulitzer Prize for Music had just been awarded to Du Yun for her opera ‘Angel’s Bone,’ beating out the finalists Ashley Fure and Kate Soper…. Since 1943, only … seven women have won.… Last year was notable year for women in classical music more broadly: Julia Wolfe won a MacArthur ‘genius’ grant … and the conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla was appointed music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony…. The first-ever Pulitzer awarded to a female composer, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, [was] in 1983. But progress has not continued apace…. [Kaija] Saariaho has said that when she was studying in her native Finland in the nineteen-seventies, she had no awareness of any previous generations of women who might serve as role models…. Four composers … including Missy Mazzoli … have launched the Luna Composition Lab, a mentoring program for young women…. The dizzying range of musical talent among this year’s three Pulitzer finalists … should be treated not as a victory but as a clarion call. A shrewd orchestra could easily give over an entire festival to their music. At the very least, they should play it.”

Posted April 14, 2017

Pictured left to right: Ashley Fure, Du Yun, Kate Soper