Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why Don't Pulitzer People Give Popular Music Any Respect?

Ann Powers complained recently that a popular-music critic has never won the Pulitzer for criticism, but with resignation:
This snub is par for the course for those of us lucky to do a job that's long been derided as extraneous AND self-indulgent," fumes Powers, "a substitute for the real mojo musicians possess. Marginalized within most newspapers as neither money-making (film critics bring in ads) or enriching (get thee to the symphony, philistines!), and scorned by many living the 'rock and roll lifestyle' as overly pointy-headed, pop critics are caught in a hallway between the high and the low.
See her full article here.

If she doesn't like the nods for criticism, she should look at the music choices. This year, Zhou Long won for his opera Madame White Snake (it's not what you think) based on a Boston performance that received lukewarm reviews. This in a year that saw some pretty amazing rock albums (not Contra; see Pitchfork's list, or NPR's).

Although the Pulitzer committee has given lifetime achievement awards to Bob Dylan and Hank Williams (and Milton Babbitt), no popular music has ever won the music prize.

Wynton Marsalis did win for his jazz oratorio Blood on the Fields. But even that piece was within the bounds of a concert-music genre. (Last year, by the way, Jennifer Higdon won for her violin concerto.)

This isn't about the Pulitzer people getting hip or loosening up. It's about them acknowledging that as concert music grows less and less satisfying intellectually, rock and popular music is picking up the slack  (and has been for a while).