The last few weeks have seen the announcement of some of the most important prizes in Australian Contemporary Music.

Firstly, as mentioned earlier, was the Australian Classical Music Awards. A full list of winners can be found here, and it was both nice to see awards going to, in some cases, the ‘right’ people (Southern Cross Soloists, George Lentz), rather than the politically expedient people.

A method other than performance activity, though, needs to be come up with in order to determine the ‘work of the year’ prizes. For instance, it’s utterly unsurprising that the work of Lyn Williams was more performed than any other vocal work of 2008. It would be nice for all of the winners of those prizes, surely, to be able to claim that the prize had been won on merit, rather than statistics.

The second is the Ian Potter Composer Fellowships. These have, for over a decade, been one of the great bastions of composer support in this country, and provide an established composer with $80,000 over two years, and an emerging one with $20,000. This is the last year that this prize is being offered for composition (they’re moving on to an as-yet-undisclosed other artform as of 2011), and so of course every man and his dog entered (including moi, naturally…).

I was expecting to be writing here that the recipients were utterly undeserving, to rail against the triumph of mediocrity. I was prepared to attribute it to the questionable politics of the jury (cue rant about postmodernist hegemony, or some-such). Or perhaps chalk it up to karmic necessity after their having got it so absolutely right last time around.

But it turns out the prizes went to Gordon Kerry and Iain Grandage. Now, I’m not really familiar with any of Grandage’s music, although his name has been one that crops up increasingly frequently of late, and I’m sure that such a grant will allow us all a better opportunity to engage with his work. Gordon Kerry, on the other hand, is right up there, in my opinion, with a small handful of composers who are so deserving of, and yet so infrequently receive, such honours that it’s almost criminal.

The jury also made an exceptional grant of $8,000 to Damien Ricketson. Good on them.

Not bad for a jury that knows absolutely nothing about contemporary music.

(Resonate coverage to be found here).

The third is the announcement of finalists for the Paul Lowin prizes. List of finalists can found here.

It’s a great shame that Carl Vine’s Symphony No 7 looks like the most serious contender for the orchestral prize. While it’s a work that clearly demonstrates a formidable orchestral technique, and an obviously musical mind, I just kinda feel that the piece would have been more interesting had it been written by Carl Vine, rather than cobbled together out of clearly recognisable trinkets nicked, sans context, from Shostakovich, Vaughan Williams and, especially, Stravinsky (like, seriously, it could be re-branded as a concerto for Petroushka and orchestra…). Bitchy sniping aside, though, the two performances I’ve heard of it now (on radio) have been bloody good, and anybody that thinks that either WASO or ASO can’t play need to start paying closer attention…

On the other hand, the Song Cycle category has three very strong contenders indeed, and my preferences there tend more towards stylistic predilections, rather than actual opinion, and it seems a shame not to be able to recognise three such worthy candidates equally.

(Also, does anybody find it weird that the press release doesn’t mention the pieces by name?)