There really is a problem — and I believe the powers in charge of the Pulitzers would agree — because the top nonclassical artists aren’t nominated for the music prize.
What would change this? Beyond, of course, the absolutely essential, long-overdue change in the guidelines that I called for in my last post.
Well, I’d support affirmitive action. For the next three years only give the prize to nonclassical music, and only consider nominations for nonclassical artists. I’m sure many people in the classical world will hate this, and maybe get violently angry with me.
But what could be more convincing to nonclassical musicians — what could more strongly make them believe that they had a shot at a Pulitzer prize — than seeing nonclassical music repeatedly win it?
Failing that, I’d suggest putting people on the Pulitzer jury who don’t know anything about classical music. I’m serious. There have been plenty of people on the jury who don’t know much, or don’t know anything, about pop. And who may believe it’s simplistic, non-artistic music, unworthy of the prize.
So let’s balance that. Yes, the Pulitzer people have tried, in recent years, to find jurors (like John Rockwell, well known as both a rock critic and a classical critic) who know both pop and classical music.
But that’s not enough. I think they should also choose some deeply cultured rock critics who don’t know classical music at all. Greil Marcus would be a perfect example. How would he judge the classical nominations? That’s up to him, just as it’s up to the pure-bred classical jurors how they judge nonclassical work.
Besides, wouldn’t it be fascinating to see what kind of appeal new classical pieces might have to someone with a finely honed musical sensibility, who’d be coming to them fresh?
Or do we think — and let’s be honest about this — that classical music is more difficult than nonclassical stuff, that it requires special knowledge and long experience, and that therefore a classical musician can judge a pop nomination without knowing anything about pop, while a rock critic could never, never, never judge a classical piece.
I think that’s bigoted, myself. But I think some people in the classical music world — and, maybe, some people involved with the Pulitzer Prize — in fact think that way. They don’t mean any harm, and hold this view with great sincerity. But still it’s at the very least ignorant — proof, of which, i fear, you can find in the astoundingly ignorant things that some of my critics say about pop music right here in the comments on this blog.