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Henry Brant Awarded 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Music

SAN FRANCISCO, April 8, 2002. Today in New York, the Pulitzer Prize committee awarded the 2002 prize in music composition to Henry Brant for his work Ice Field, commissioned by Other Minds for the San Francisco Symphony with funds from the Rockefeller Foundation's Multi-Arts Production Fund. The music was premiered December 12-15, 2001, by the orchestra under the direction their music director Michael Tilson Thomas.

An insouciant, multi-stylistic piece, composed for nearly 100 instrumentalists and two conductors, Ice Field included parts for bass steel drums, jazz band and organ, played by the composer himself, occasionally using the 32' and 64' stops to produce low gorilla-like tones not generally heard in polite classical circles. The title of the work was inspired by a 1927 voyage via ship from New York to France during which the 13-year-old budding composer and his family encountered a dangerous clusters of ice blocks that had calved from their main site and slowed the ship to a crawl for a full day while the captain negotiated the difficult passage around them.

Henry Brant with Charles Amirkhanian at Davies Hall

Brant, 88, lives in Santa Barbara, California, and is the world's leading composer of "spatial music," in which performers are placed in strategic locations around a hall to add an expressive element to the music that goes beyond mere novelty. Musically, a direct descendant of the late American innovator Charles Ives, Brant has produced an enormous body of music that anticipates later spatial attempts by Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, and others. His complete works recently were purchased by the Sacher Foundation in Switzerland, the world's leading library of 20th Century concert holograph manuscript scores.

Reached at his home today, Brant outlined plans for a new work for chorus and orchestra he wishes to compose, based on texts of Leonardo da Vinci. The texts concern architecture and its relationship to sound and would form the basis for a work in which the text is illustrated directly by the music.

Watch & listen for interviews with Henry Brant this week on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, on NPR's Morning Edition or All Things Considered, and in the San Francisco Chronicle. A 9-minute film about Brant and Ice Field may be viewed online here, with a comprehensive review by composer Neely Bruce and extensive information about the commission. A review of the piece in the NY Times by Bernard Holland may be read here.

Other Minds congratulates Henry Brant and thanks Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony for their generous collaboration in this daunting project. Thanks also to the Multi-Arts Production Fund of the Rockefeller Foundation for their support of Ice Field. Not since Charles Ives' 1946 prize for Lou Harrison's arrangement of the Symphony No. 3, has an experimentalist garnered this award.

Charles Amirkhanian
Artistic Director, Other Minds

Charles Amirkhanian Interviews Henry Brant Video of Henry Brant at Davies Symphony Hall