Composer gets quarter of a million bucks

Composer gets quarter of a million bucks


norman lebrecht

September 19, 2017

The $250,000 Dorothy and Lilian Gish Prize, awarded annually to an artist who has ‘pushed the boundaries of an art form, contributed to social change and paved the way for the next generation,’ has fallen to the versatile composer and vocalist, Meredith Monk, 75.

Last time out, she won a MacArthur Fellowship and the National Medal of Arts.


  • John Borstlap says:

    “…… an artist who has ‘pushed the boundaries of an art form, contributed to social change and paved the way for the next generation,’ ” ….. The boundaries of which art form? Certainly not of Western art music. Contributed to social change: making primitive voice exercises accessible to slum dwellers? Paved the way for the next generation: so that they can happily forget that there exists something like a musical culture around the corner? In reality, Ms Monk has made a contribution to music genres which never had the ambition to be part of Western art music, but are mere conceptual fun for juvenile minds without very developed aesthetic needs, if we have to believe the video.

    The silly accolade: ‘…pushed the boundaries…’ etc. reads as the embarrassing, entirely outdated ideological rant of modernism, which sees music as developing along a line where the articulation points are created by the moments when someone ‘transgresses a boundary’. Such vision tries to make change permanent with the result that any art form eventually empties itself. Art is not about transgressing limitations, pushing boudaries, contributing to social change (as if change in society is a priori a good thing – which is nonsense, there are good and bad changes), and least of all paving ways for next generations – all this utoopian rhetoric is meaningless and mere repeating dead formulae now more than half a century old.

    But it is really great that Ms Monk, in spite of all this, has been generously paid for her efforts, so that there is something concrete, at least, to be had from her work. Congratulations!

  • AnnaT says:

    Brava, Meredith Monk! What wonderful news.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Dorothy and Lillian Gish. The silent film actresses. They must have socked it away to endow a quarter million dollar prize. I had no idea.

    I wonder who developed the current award criteria. The prize’s website says the Lillian Gish’s intention was that the award go to an individual who has “made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.” No mention of boundaries.

  • Peter Owen says:

    Whilst I’m sure Ms. Monk will enjoy blowing $250k as much as anyone I do question the reasoning behind these prizes (the Grawemeyer being another) in awarding substantial sums to successful elderly composers who probably don’t really need it.
    Instead, why not offer ten young and promising composers $25,000 each?
    (I very much enjoyed the opening of her Dolmen but lost it at 6′ 38″ when Eccles from The Goons seems to take over.)

    • James says:

      I’m especially surprised that you consider Andrew Norman, Djuro Zivkovic and Michel van der Aa to be ‘elderly’!

    • David Osborne says:

      Goodness, because you think that young composers are unfairly discriminated against when it comes to their share of the funding pot? What planet do you live on?

  • William Safford says:

    Piece of trivia: Julius Eastman is on track #5.