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Philip Glass, winner of the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award.

This morning the BBVA Foundation announced the awarding of the fourteenth edition of its Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Music and Opera category to the American composer Philip Glass (Baltimore, 1937) “for his extraordinary contribution to musical creation and opera, with great impact on the history of music in the 20th and 21st centuries”, according to the minutes of the jury, which was chaired by the composer, musicologist and director of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Tomás Marco, with Víctor García de Gomar, artistic director of the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona as secretary. The members were Mauro Bucarelli, artistic coordinator of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia (Italy); the composer Raquel García-Tomás, the conductor and composer Pedro Halffter, and Kathryn McDowell, general director of the London Symphony Orchestra (United Kingdom).

Glass’ candidacy for the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award was presented by the composer and professor of Composition at Musikene (and winner of the 2021 National Music Prize in the composition category), Gabriel Erkoreka, who considers that “Philip Glass is an enormous figure in the music of the 20th and 21st centuries, who transcends the field of contemporary music in the way he has permeated society: he has been able to connect with countless audiences, of many characteristics, of all ages and across the length and breadth of the planet”. Glass’s pieces offer us, as Erkoreka explains, “on the one hand, that repetitive element – which at times we can perceive as static and hypnotic – but if one is attentive to the changes, one notices the ingenuity that unfolds in the rhythm and marks the life of the work as it passes through time”.

In its minutes, the jury noted that Glass is “highly respected by leading exponents of many artistic disciplines” and has a “distinctive and novel approach to composition”, which has embraced “different cultural traditions from around the world, forging a unique and personal style and following his own path with courage and conviction”. The minutes add that Philip Glass is “an international figure who appeals to audiences of all generations and whose works are performed in major concert halls and by leading orchestral ensembles around the world”.

For his part, the composer, who was contacted by telephone by those responsible for the prize to inform him of the verdict, declared that he felt “moved” and recalled that “the great effort I made between my twenties and thirties allowed me to achieve some important milestones in some pieces. It was a language based first of all on contemporary music as I understood it, but also on my own particular way of applying that language. I was also very interested in theatre and dance. What I was looking for was a musical language that established a relationship between movement, sound and image”.

With a musical career of almost sixty years in the field of composition, in which he was a prominent member of the most aggressive avant-garde, he now prefers, according to the press release, “to redefine the elements. Instead of talking about harmony, melody and rhythm, let’s talk about language, imagination and intuition. The language of music can be very specific, depending on where, when and with whom you study it… The language of music is what we learn to play and listen to… The other two elements, imagination and intuition, are very important: you can get an academic degree in the language of music, but you can’t get a degree in imagination or intuition. Those are the things we bring with us when we start working, and that is just as true in architecture, medicine, politics or economics. Without imagination and intuition, music doesn’t really make sense”.

The secretary of the jury, Víctor García de Gomar, defined Glass as “an artist without a matrix [who] makes a unique contribution of value for which there is no previous precedent. He creates a new universe: just as the Darmstadt School does in Europe, with the difference that the formula of the minimalists that Glass represents has managed to bring this response to a wide audience while the European tradition kept its distance from large audiences”.

About the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards

The BBVA Foundation centers its activity on the promotion of world-class scientific research and cultural creation, and the recognition of talent.

The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards recognize and reward contributions of singular impact in science, technology, the humanities and music, privileging those that significantly enlarge the stock of knowledge in a discipline, open up new fields, or build bridges between disciplinary areas. The goal of the awards, established in 2008, is to celebrate and promote the value of knowledge as a public good without frontiers, the best instrument at our command to take on the great global challenges of our time and expand the worldviews of individuals in a way that benefits all of humanity. Their eight categories address the knowledge map of the 21st century, from basic knowledge to fields devoted to understanding and interrelating the natural environment by way of closely connected domains such as biology and medicine or economics, information technologies, social sciences and the humanities, and the universal art of music. They come with 400,000 euros in each of their eight categories, along with a diploma and a commemorative artwork created by artist Blanca Muñoz.

Previous winners of the Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Music and Opera category have been Peter Eötvös (2020), Arvo Pärt (2019), John Adams (2018), Kaiha Saariaho (2017), Sofiya Gubaidúlina (2016), Georges Aperghis (2015), György Kurtág (2014), Steve Reich (2013), Pierre Boulez (2012), Salvatore Sciarrino (2011), Helmut Lachenmann (2010) and Cristóbal Halffter (2009). In the first edition, 2008, the prize did not exist in this category.

The BBVA Foundation has been aided from the outset in the evaluation of nominees for the Frontiers Award in Music and Opera by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), the country’s premier public research organization. CSIC appoints evaluation support panels made up of leading experts in the corresponding knowledge area, who are charged with undertaking an initial assessment of the candidates proposed by numerous institutions across the world, and drawing up a reasoned shortlist for the consideration of the award committees. CSIC is also responsible for designating each committee’s chair and participates in the selection of its members, thus helping to ensure objectivity in the recognition of innovation and scientific excellence.

© Fotografía de Philip Glass descargada de la web de la Fundación BBVA.