“DAMN.” is unquestionably deserving, but its victory seems like one other signal of the world, and subsequently the musical tradition, we dwell in — embodied by the streaming providers, by which the most important artists and albums get increasingly more, and everybody else will get a smaller piece of the pie. This method is corrosive to music, interval — classical, jazz, hip-hop, all the things. It’s the truth — and there are actually plenty of very fashionable artists who’re very significant, Mr. Lamar amongst them — however I don’t like each side of it.
PARELES I fully agree with you in regards to the unhealthy total results of winner-take-all tradition. The phrase “trending” makes me instinctively recoil; as critics, you and I each wish to direct individuals past reputation charts. However selecting “DAMN.” wasn’t a capitulation to mere reputation. The album is a posh, diverse, refined, richly multilayered work, overflowing with concepts and certainly not instantly ingratiating. It’s important to give it real consideration and thought to get probably the most out of it, simply as with every different Pulitzer-winning composition.
In the meantime, wasn’t the music Pulitzer, for a lot of a long time, largely the captive of a small, insular educational music scene? The Pulitzers refused a particular quotation for Duke Ellington, who by no means received the award. They ignored jazz — artistically refined and stylish, commercially endangered — till Wynton Marsalis lastly received a Pulitzer in 1997. They had been unconscionably late — wanting awfully cliquish to me — even in recognizing Minimalism: Steve Reich got his Pulitzer in 2009, not in 1977 for “Music for 18 Musicians.”
To me, it seems to be like a few of the squawks are complaints about exclusivity being breached. And should you ask me, it ought to have occurred sooner. I hereby nominate, for a retrospective Pulitzer, Public Enemy’s 1988 album “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back”: an experimental sonic bombshell, a verbal torrent, a thoughts expander. For that matter, the Pulitzers had been late on Kendrick Lamar, too: “To Pimp a Butterfly,” from 2015, has much more musical breadth than “DAMN.” (which has loads).
WOOLFE There have been so many missed alternatives. The 12 months after it turned down Ellington — the principle Pulitzer board rejected the music jury’s suggestion — it may have given the common prize to Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” How about Joni Mitchell’s “Blue,” which may have received in 1972 — over a decade earlier than the prize lastly received round to recognizing a feminine composer? Philip Glass, by no means fairly beloved within the educational realm, stays Pulitzer-less. And I’ll simply depart this proper right here: Kanye.
You could possibly play these fantasy video games without end. It’s belated and essential that the award widen to embody a fuller image of what music is. But when that widening additional marginalizes noncommercial work — which doesn’t view itself as unique however merely as endangered in an financial system that conspires towards it — one thing vital might be misplaced. Accountable eclecticism is what I’d need going ahead from Pulitzer juries, for whom the “DAMN.” award will hopefully be releasing in the perfect sense.
PARELES What had been the items from the opposite two finalists, Ted Hearne and Michael Gilbertson?
WOOLFE Like Mr. Lamar, who’s 30, these guys are strikingly younger. Mr. Gilbertson, 30 as effectively, wrote a string quartet that veers from glassy to strong, and Mr. Hearne, 35, wrote “Sound From the Bench,” a cantata for chamber choir, electrical guitars and drums. Like Mr. Lamar’s album, the finalists are politically charged: Mr. Hearne, at all times socially aware, right here mashes up texts from Supreme Court docket choices to counsel the ambiguities of identification and humanity. (A company has speech, you say?) And Mr. Gilbertson has said that he adjusted his preliminary sketches for his quartet after the 2016 election, making them “extra introspective and comforting.” Virtually as vital as Mr. Lamar’s win, for me, is the trio taken collectively: a brand new era, turning the world round it into music.
PARELES I’ll need to put them in a playlist. I’m not suggesting that the Pulitzers mirror the Prime 10 or the Grammys. (Please, no.) And subsequent 12 months, positive, give the prize to an album that bought 11 copies after a lone school gig someplace. However I believe we’re seeing a shifting perspective on the best way modern classical and jazz composition typically draw on the concepts of hip-hop or world music or pop, as if to raise them by carrying them into the live performance corridor.
In line with the Pulitzer reporting, “DAMN.” received added to consideration when the jury was wanting right into a composition with hip-hop influences, and determined to go to the supply — the place the concepts, on this case, are even stronger, each rawer and smarter. The prize quotation praises “DAMN.” for its “vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism,” which to me has a whiff of condescension — there’s all types of brainpower and artifice in there, too — however let’s benefit from the win. Concerning noncommercial outreach, Mr. Lamar typically collaborates with first-rate, revolutionary jazz musicians, like Kamasi Washington, who not solely are comfortable to work with him but in addition profit — in their very own viewers development — from exhibiting up in his album credit.
One factor that additionally strikes me about giving the award to “DAMN.” is that it quietly units apart two earlier Pulitzer givens: that the profitable piece was carried out by dwell musicians in actual time and that it was written by a solitary composer. However “DAMN.” has multiple producers, composers and performers (even Rihanna and U2 cameos!) layering tracks in studios. Mr. Lamar is the auteur, totally in cost however not the only creator. It’s one other method of creating music that deserves respect.
WOOLFE This 12 months’s Pulitzer truly strengthened that outdated Romantic phantasm of the singular composer. It was given to Mr. Lamar alone — not, as within the Grammys, to the album’s songwriting or producing groups, too.
PARELES Perhaps they need to change the quotation to “Kendrick Lamar and employees” — just like the reporting prizes. To me, each the Dylan Nobel and the Lamar Pulitzer — which isn’t the primary hip-hop Pulitzer; Lin-Manuel Miranda received that for drama with “Hamilton” — are indicators that the outdated prize-giving establishments are rethinking the methods during which they used to circumscribe the concept of high quality. So long as they’re conscientious, that may make the awards solely extra vital.