"I don't think Bob Dylan needs a Pulitzer Prize," said a classical music critic at the San Francisco Chronicle, Joshua Kosman. Greg Sandow of NewMusicBox.com concurred, but argued that the prize needs Dylan.
Messrs. Kosman and Sandow engaged in their lively conversation about the singer-songwriter following a panel called "The Pulitzer Budges." It was part of the conference "Shifting Ears: A Symposium on the Present State and Future of Classical Music Criticism," sponsored by the Music Critics Association of North America and the National Arts Journalism program at Columbia University in partnership with Columbia's music department.
"The Pulitzer Budges" was one of the most energetically debated sessions during the conference. It occurred Sunday afternoon and was moderated by NewMusicBox.org editor Frank Oteri. The panel consisted of Mr. Kosman; a Pulitzer Prize administrator Sig Gissler; a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, Gunther Schuller, and writer Patrick Smith.
Participants discussed the recent adjustment in the rules of the Pulitzer Prize for Music. In its latest incarnation, the prize hopes to encourage greater diversity in entries and jurors and no longer requires the submission of a musical score. In order to increase the number of submissions, musical theater works, film scores, and non-notated or improvised pieces will be considered.
Mr. Gissler said he hoped the changes would increase the quality of submissions and not merely the quantity. Mr. Schuller said that the Pulitzer's decision to broaden the requirements for entry was "long overdue."
Mr. Kosman showed his listeners three hand-illustrations during his presentation. The first had a circle drawn inside a rectangle. Composers inside the circle represented those in strong contention for the prize. Mr. Kosman called those outside the circle but inside the square members of "the pale of resentment." The term was analogous to the "pale of settlement" referred to in European history and geography. Displaying two additional illustrations, Mr. Kosman said changes to the prize rules will leave an "enormously large pale of resentment."
"What are you going to do, he said, "when Bob Dylan comes knocking on the door and says, 'Hey man, where's my Pulitzer?'" One has to bring rhetoric into line with the reality of how the Prizes are actually administered, he added provocatively.
"Shifting Ears" opened Friday evening with composer Ned Rorem reading from his writing about music criticism.
Ensuing panels tackled topics such as whether non-American critics write more freely and the place of journalistic criticism in undergraduate and graduate studies.
One topic bandied around was that of "crossing over." This was not a refer ence to psychic John Edwards's television show, but rather addressed the issue of whether one can be a critic and a musician, composer, or conductor simultaneously.
There were humorous moments. When Barbara Zuck of the Columbus Dispatch offered "Greetings from the Swing State," moderator Alan Rich of Los Angeles Weekly asked if the swing referred to Glenn Miller. When Tim Page praised Mr. Rich for his journalistic accomplishments, Mr. Rich took monetary currency from his pocket and jokingly handed it to Mr. Page, and on Sunday, when the microphones elicited a shrill screeching feedback sound, one critic in the back of the audience said, "That's serial music."
The audience also laughed when Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times quoted Virgil Thomson, who considered Beethoven's Egmont Overture "an hors d'oeuvre. Nobody's digestion was ever spoiled by it and no latecomer has ever lost much by missing it."
The conference's most recent precedent took place in 1947, said NAJP's director, Andras Szanto. That event was organized by Arthur Tillman Merritt and included notables such as Roger Sessions and E.M. Forster.
This year's conference comes just before a National Endowment for the Arts Journalism Institute on Classical Music and Opera, which brings 25 arts writers from 20 states together to spend two weeks at the university.
The life and work of German naturalist, geographer, traveler, and diplomat Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was recently explored at a conference hosted by the Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center. Four concurrent tracks at the conference covered "Culture and Society in the New World," "Literature and the Arts," "Life and Travels," and "Knowledge and Worldview."
In von Humboldt's 90 years, he met Simon Bolivar, Napoleon, Goethe, Thomas Jefferson, and was lauded by Charles Darwin. Humboldt's research included botanical visits to South America, Cuba, and Mexico; investigation of the origin of rocks and tropical storms; and examining connections between temperature and elevation.
His name is perhaps best remembered for measuring the current that runs up the western coast of South America, called the Humboldt Current.
A fascinating story came up regarding the Maypure, an Indian tribe that was wiped out in South America. The only trace of their language was left through parrots, which spoke 40 words. Humboldt is said to have transcribed their language from the parrots and thus managed to salvage it from extinction.