In for a Penny, In for a Pound by Henry Threadgill (released on Pi Recordings on May 26, 2015) has been named the winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Music. The annually awarded $10,000 prize is for a distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the previous year. The jury described it as “a highly original work in which notated music and improvisation mesh in a sonic tapestry that seems the very expression of modern American life.”
According to the Pi website, Threadgill’s six-movement work, created for his quintet Zooid (Liberty Ellman – electric guitar, Christopher Hoffman – cello, Jose Davila – tuba and trombone, Elliot Humberto Kavee – drums, and Threadgill – multiple winds), includes four main movements written specifically to feature each of the other musicians in the group: “Ceroepic” for Elliott Kavee, “Dosepic” for Christopher Hoffman, “Tresepic” for Jose Davila, and “Unoepic” for Liberty Ellman. They are introduced by an opening shorter piece and sandwich an exordium (“In for a Penny, In for a Pound” and “Off The Prompt Box”, respectively.) Threadgill’s own alto saxophone, flute, and bass flute is woven throughout each section. As with all of his music for Zooid, the music employs a strategy of Threadgill’s own device: a set of three note intervals assigned to each player that serves as the starting point for improvisation. Below is a link to two of the tracks from the recording.
Below is a link to a 2010 NewMusicBox talk with Henry Threadgill.
Also nominated as finalists in this category were: The Blind Banister by Timo Andres, premiered on November 27, 2015, in St. Paul, MN by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (and published by Andres & Sons Bakery), which the jury described as “a three-movement piece inspired by Beethoven that takes listeners on a beautiful quest in which they rise and fall with the music’s ascending and descending scales”; and The Mechanics: Six from the Shop Floor a six movement saxophone quartet by Carter Pann, that the jury decribed as “a suite that imagines its four saxophonists as mechanics engaged in a rhythmic interplay of precision and messiness that is by turns bubbly, pulsing, dreamy, and nostalgic.” (The work appears on a Capitol Quartet recording released on September 8, 2015 on the Blue Griffin label which also features saxophone quartets by Stacy Garrop, John Anthony Lennon, and the French composer Alfred Desenclos.) In addition, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton has been awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Drama.
The jury for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize was: Julia Wolfe, 2015 Pulitzer Prize winning composer, Bang on a Can co-artistic director, and assistant professor of music composition, New York University (Chair); William Banfield, composer, recording artist, and professor of liberal arts, Berklee College of Music, Boston; Scott Cantrell, classical music critic, The Dallas Morning News; Regina Carter, jazz violinist, Maywood, NJ; and Pamela Tatge, director, Center for the Arts, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT.