It’s impossible for us as listeners to be aware of every development in new music. There are some great sites, like NewMusicBox, that do an admirable job of covering new music, but it’s just too large a subject. We have to make some decisions about how much time and energy we spend on it. I always like to look into the winner of the Pulitzer each year. Unlike journalists and authors, there’s only one Pulitzer for composers. This (over)simplifies things greatly. But each year when the winner is announced, I try to track down some recordings of music by the winner. I don’t think I need to like it all, but I do think that anybody who self-identifies as a composer should know at least a little bit about the people being recognized as the best in our field.
In 2008, the Pulitzer went to David Lang for The Little Match Girl Passion. When read that, I was embarrassed that I had never heard of him before, so I immediately went to find a recording of the piece. Unfortunately, it didn’t exist yet. 1 But it does now!
Lang uses the chamber singers as a kind of hybrid between vocalists and instrumentalists. He creates textures the same way he might in a chamber orchestra. Sometimes the texture is complex with dense counterpoint, and at other times, the whole ensemble is like a Greek chorus, all sounding together as one. Also, how about singers that sound like people and not whatever traditional “bel canto” opera singers sound like? Check out this fantastic recording from Amazon: David Lang: Little Match Girl Passion.
- The Pulitzer goes to a work that was either performed or recorded for the first time in the last year. ↩