Now that the discussion of the merit or lack of merit of the Pulitzer board’s choice of winners for this year is winding down, I’d like to turn your attention to something that you may have missed.
According to the “Plan of Award” document on the Pulitzer website, “Entries must be submitted in writing” and “All entries should include biographies and pictures of entrants and each entry in journalism, letters and music must be accompanied by a handling fee of $50 made payable to Columbia University/Pulitzer Prizes.” This is a perfectly reasonable set of criteria–you can’t win if you don’t enter the competition, and in order to enter the competition you have to pay a modest fee. There is some debate in our community as to whether charging entry fees for competitions is ethical, but there is clearly value to the management of the prize to setting a relatively low entry fee to ensure that the people who enter the competition think they have a shot at winning–that way you don’t have five thousand entries of whatever people could throw together just for the heck of entering. And sure enough, the combination of the reputation of the prize as difficult to win and the entry fee keeps the number of applications down–this year there were 129 entries for the music prize.
But Ornette Coleman didn’t submit his album “Sound Grammar” for the award–apparently the jury was disappointed not to see it among the entries (and I’ve heard they were also disappointed by a lack of Jazz entries in general) and went out an picked up a copy themselves. And as we know, they ultimately included “Sound Grammar” in their nominations to the Board, and the Board selected it for the prize. Given the rules for consideration, this can mean only one of two things: either Coleman wasn’t in fact eligible for the award and thus technically didn’t win the prize, or the jury has just revoked the rules for submission. If the former is true, I expect the Pulitzer board to take back Coleman’s award and either announce a new winner selected from among the eligible entries or declare that there is no winner for 2007. But until such an announcement is made, we have no choice but to assume that the old submission rules have been repealed and that composers can now enter the competition without paying the fee.
So spread the word. I want to hear next year that they got those five thousand applications. The deadline (although it too has arguably been overturned) is January 15th, 2008. Mark your calendar, pick your best piece for the year, and send it in. Tell your rock and jazz buddies, too, since the whole point of this exercise is to offer a truly representative sampling of American music.