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Composer John Zorn Garners William Schuman Award

HERC Launch
The music label Zorn founded in 1995, Tzadik, is “dedicated to releasing the best in avant garde and experimental music.”

Columbia University's School of the Arts (SoA) has awarded the 2007 William Schuman Award to composer John Zorn. Named for its first recipient, William Schuman, and granted periodically at the discretion of the SoA dean, the award—a direct, unrestricted grant of $50,000—is one of the largest given to an American composer.

The award, established in 1981 by the Bydale Foundation, given in honor of William Schuman's 70th birthday, recognizes the lifetime achievement of an American composer whose works have been widely performed and generally acknowledged to be of lasting significance. Previous winners have included Schuman, David Diamond, Gunther Schuller, Milton Babbitt, Hugo Weisgall and, most recently in 2001, Steve Reich.

“The School of the Arts is pleased to present the William Schuman Award to John Zorn, whose astonishingly diverse and extraordinary body of work has enlightened, startled and enchanted its listeners,” said Dan Kleinman, acting dean of SoA. “His lasting contribution to the repertoire of today has changed the landscape of composition.”

Zorn has created an influential body of work that draws on his experience in a variety of genres including jazz, rock, hardcore punk, classical, klezmer, film, cartoon, popular, and improvised music, and defies traditional academic categories. A native of New York City, he has been a central figure in the downtown scene since 1975, incorporating a wide range of musicians in various compositional formats. He learned alchemical synthesis from Harry Smith, structural ontology with Richard Foreman, how to make art out of garbage with Jack Smith, cathartic expression at Sluggs and hermetic intuition from Joseph Cornell. Early inspirations include American innovators Ives, Varèse, Cage, Carter, and Partch; the European tradition of Berg, Stravinsky, Boulez, and Kagel; soundtrack composers Herrmann, Morricone and Stalling; and avant-garde theatre, film and art.

To help composers and musicians who find it difficult to record their music using major labels, he founded his own label, Tzadik, in 1995.

Zorn was celebrated this past October, when Columbia’s Miller Theatre featured him in its signature Composer Portraits series. Also this year, the composer won a “genius” grant from the MacArthur Foundation. Miller will host a concert and awards ceremony for the Schuman recognition on Thursday, April 26 (concert details to be announced).

Published: Mar 02, 2007
Last modified: Nov 14, 2007