Composer Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon was a finalist for a 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his work Comala, which the Pulitzer committee described as an “ambitious cantata that translates into music an influential work of Latin American literature, giving voice to two cultures that intersect within the term ‘America.'” The Pulitzer Prizes were announced on Monday, April 18; the winner of the prize for music was Zhou Long for his opera Madame White Snake. Only one other composer, Fred Lerdahl, was named a finalist in the category.
Zohn-Muldoon’s Comala was released in June 2010 by Bridge Records. It is based on the novel Pedro Paramo by Mexican novelist and short story writer Juan Rulfo, considered one of Latin America’s most esteemed authors. The cantata unfolds in 13 continuous scenes from the point of view of Juan Preciado, the son of the title character of the book, who dies midway through the novel. In Comala, the living characters, who act under the pressure of time, express themselves in normal speech, while the dead characters, who are free of time, reflect endlessly in song.
Comala, which appears on the recording Cantos, features the Eastman BroadBand ensemble, tenor Scott Perkins, soprano Tony Arnold, and Associate Professor of Composition Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez as the narrator, under the direction of Juan Trigos.
“We are thrilled that Eastman’s Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon was a Pulitzer finalist,” said Eastman School of Music Dean Douglas Lowry. “His Comala is an inspiring work that does more than musically blend two cultures, it unearths their inherent tensions and harmonies to startling effect, and creates quite another dimension for the deeply textured literary work of writer Juan Rulfo.”
Zohn-Muldoon is associate professor of composition at the Eastman School of Music. Prior to joining the Eastman faculty in 2002, he held positions at the School of Music, University of Guanajuato, Mexico, and the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. His music has been praised for its detailed sculpting of concise musical ideas that unfold in contrapuntal “kaleidoscopes” of intense rhythm and color. His works have been performed by such groups as the Riverside Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, eighth blackbird, Neue Ensemble Hannover, Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, and San Francisco Contemporary Players. Performances have taken place at ISCM World Music Days, National Public Radio’s St. Paul Sunday, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Academy of Arts in Munich, Festival Internacional Cervantino, and others.
Zohn-Muldoon’s honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Tanglewood Music Center (Omar del Carlo Foundation), Camargo Foundation, Endowment for Culture and the Arts of Mexico, and a Mozart Medal from the Embassy of Austria in Mexico. Notable commissions include Silueta como Sirena, based on three songs by celebrated songwriter Alfredo Sanchez, and Pluck. Pound. Peel., on aphorisms by poet RaÃºl Aceves. Silueta como Sirena, scored for folk singer, eight-cello ensemble, and orchestra, was commissioned by the Fromm Foundation in 2003. Pluck. Pound. Peel., written for soprano, harpsichord, mandolin, two guitars, harp, and two string quartets, was commissioned by the Syracuse Society for New Music on a 2007 grant from Meet the Composer.
Tony Award-winning choreographer Garth Fagan set his 2007 piece EDGE/JOY to a suite of three of Zohn-Muldoon’s compositions. The dance work, which was commissioned by the University of Rochester, was presented during Garth Fagan Dance’s annual season in New York City at The Joyce Theater in November 2007.
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