Ellen Reid, who grew up in Oak Ridge, has won the Pulitzer Prize in music.
Reid, 36, won the prize for her debut opera, titled “p r i s m,” which features a libretto by Roxie Perkins.
The Pulitzer Prize Board described “p r i s m” as “a bold new operatic work that uses sophisticated vocal writing and striking instrumental timbres to confront difficult subject matter: the effects of sexual and emotional abuse.”
The Pulitzer Prizes were announced Monday.
“I am blown away and incredibly honored to receive this year’s Pulitzer Prize in music,” Reid said on her Facebook page. “Composing p r i s m was a challenging, rewarding, and deeply personal experience, and I hope this opera will help shed light on the experience of surviving sexual assault.”
Her composition was commissioned and co-produced by Beth Morrison Projects, according to National Public Radio. It premiered November 29 at the Los Angeles Opera’s Off Grand Series.
Reid is a 2001 graduate of Oak Ridge High School, according to the City of Oak Ridge. She received her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Columbia University and her master’s degree in arts from California Institute of the Arts. Reid now splits her time between her two favorite cities, Los Angeles and New York City, while working as a composer and sound artist. Her parents, Randy and Karen Reid, still live in Oak Ridge, the city said in a press release Tuesday.
“I never dreamt that writing music could be a viable career path, but I started composing my sophomore year of college and haven’t stopped since,” Reid said in a biography on her website. “As a kid, I casually sang in choir, played piano, and percussion.”
“Reid was a wonderful part of the First United Methodist Church of Oak Ridge youth group and youth choir (and children’s choir—she made a great lion in ‘Daniel, Darius, and Delion’) growing up,” said Kathy Gillenwaters, who works at the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce and is a singer and chorus director. “I’m sure her parents Randy and Karen Reid are bursting with pride—along with all of us who know her.”
Reid is a composer and sound artist whose work includes opera, sound design, film scoring, and ensemble and choral writing.
Her opera, “p r i s m,” opened to universal acclaim in sold-out runs on the east and west coasts, as a part of New York’s Prototype Festival and the LA Opera’s Off Grand Series, according to her website biography.
Los Angeles Times critic Mark Swed hailed the piece as brilliant, writing that Reid is “a maker of wonder, mystery, suspense, fear, and glory,” the newspaper reported. “Notes slide into one another as if guided by a secret force. Melodies are endless and inventively transformed, the atmospheric pressure ever changing.”
Upcoming highlights for Reid include a new composition for the New York Philharmonic and a collaboration with Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller on a sound installation for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Walt Disney Concert Hall.
In the fall of 2019, Reid will start a three-year appointment as creative adviser and composer-in-residence for Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
Reid said she was was exposed to the kaleidoscopic sound world of New York City while she was an undergraduate at Columbia University.
“Within weeks, I saw an installation of amplified lightbulbs at The Stone, a concert of Wagner’s ‘Ring Cycle’ at Carnegie Hall that gave me synethsesia and heard my first Indian Raga,” Reid said. “These experiences expanded my understanding of what music could be, and created an insatiable love of sound that has taken me all over the globe.”
She graduated from Columbia in 2005 with her bachelor’s degree in music, focusing on musicology and computer music.
She lived in Thailand for 2.5 years, where she taught music at an international school and collaborated with Thai artists, according to her website biography and the Los Angeles Times.
“We created pieces for the United Nations and the Patravadi Theater,” Reid said in her biography.
She moved to Los Angeles in 2009 to pursue her master’s degree in composing at CalArts, the Times said.
“There’s vast creativity and possibility in L.A.,” Reid told the newspaper. “Definitely going to CalArts helped me find my path—which I think reflects the L.A. mindset.”
Her site-specific installation “Lonely Traveler” was featured in the 2011 Ruhrtriennalein Essen Germany, and “She Gone Rogue” (directed by Rhys Ernst and Zackary Drucker) was featured in the 2012 Hammer Biennial in Los Angeles and 2014 Whitney Biennial. She traveled with members of wild Up and Jodie Landau to Reykjavik, Iceland, to create “You of All Things” with the Bedroom Community.
Reid was a composer on HOPSCOTCH with director and MacArthur fellow Yuval Sharon. Her work for HOPSCOTCH was hailed as “ineffably moving” by Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times and “radiant” by Alex Ross of the New Yorker. “Fear | Release” was commissioned and recorded by the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet on “Sono Luminus” and made NPR’s top 10 classical music albums of 2016.
She recently became the first composer to have works premiered by Los Angeles’ four leading musical institutions—the Los Angeles Philharmonic, LA Opera, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and Los Angeles Master Chorale—within one year, according to her website biography.
Reid has been an artist in residence at National Sawdust, University of California Irvine, University of Tennessee Knoxville, and Opera Omaha.
The two other finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in music this year were “Still” for solo piano by James Romig and “Sustain,” an orchestral work by Andrew Norman.
Reid is the fourth woman to earn the Pulitzer Prize in music since 2013, according to NPR.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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