I Win Prizes, Therefore I Am

Just in case anyone thought I was exaggerating in my recent complaints about Uptown composers and their program notes: I needed to look up composer Jennifer Higdon, and I found her official web page. It offers a “biography.” And so I think, well, biography, I’ll learn whether she was born in a log cabin, what her formative influences were, what age she started composing, what crises in her emotional life resulted in certain works, and so on. Here’s how her “biography” runs:

Jennifer Higdon is active as a freelance composer. Born in Brooklyn, New York on December 31, 1962, she grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and Seymour, Tennessee, and now resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

She has received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts & Letters (two awards), the Pew Fellowship in the Arts, the International League of Women Composers, Composers Inc. (the Lee Ettelson Prize), the University of Delaware New Music Competition, the Louisville Orchestra New Music Search, the Cincinnati Symphony’s Young Composer’s Competition, NACUSA, and ASCAP. In addition she has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet-the-Composer, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. She has served as Composer-in-Residence with the Music From Angel Fire Festival, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, the Walden School, the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, and the Prism Saxophone Quartet. Most recently she was named Composer-in-Residence with the Philadelphia Singers. Her orchestral work Shine was named Best Contemporary Piece of 1996 by USA Today in their year-end classical picks. In 2003, her Piano Trio was awarded Ithaca College’s Heckscher Prize.

Pardon my French, but Jeepers H. Christmas, can’t these Uptown composers think about ANYTHING in the world except their stupid awards? This is a BIOGRAPHY?! It’s pathetic that these orchestra-circuit idiots have nothing personal to say about themselves, no aptitude for introspection, no aim in their music beyond boosting their careers, but that they are driven to impress you ad infinitum with their endless lists of awards, prizes, grants, degrees, residencies, titles – as though a mile-long resumé could make anyone in the world love your music more. And I’ve only quoted the beginning: look at it: it goes on for many paragraphs like this, without the slightest personal insight or any experience that someone listening to the music would give a damn about. These Uptown composers are so obsessed with their credentials it’s ludicrous, and doesn’t say much for their love of their art.

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