2007 National Medal of Arts
Composer, Los Angeles, CA
Morten Lauridsen’s acclaimed large choral works and song cycles have established him as one of the most performed living composers in the country. Professor of Composition at the University of Southern California (USC) Thornton School of Music for more than 35 years, he is often considered America's greatest contemporary composer of choral music.
Born on February 27, 1943 in Colfax, Washington, Lauridsen was raised in Portland, Oregon, and attended Whitman College. He worked as a Forest Service firefighter and lookout (on an isolated tower near Mt. St. Helens) before traveling south to attend USC, where he studied composition with Ingolf Dahl, Halsey Stevens, Robert Linn, and Harold Owen.
In speaking of Lauridsen's sacred works in his book, Choral Music in the Twentieth Century, musicologist and conductor Nick Strimple describes Lauridsen as "the only American composer in history who can be called a mystic, (whose) probing, serene work contains an elusive and indefinable ingredient which leaves the impression that all the questions have been answered."
Lauridsen's seven vocal cycles and his series of sacred a cappella motets are featured regularly in concert by distinguished vocalists and ensembles throughout the world. The vocal cycles include Les Chansons des Roses (Rilke), Mid-Winter Songs (Graves), Cuatro Canciones (Lorca), Madrigali (various Italian Renaissance poets), Nocturnes (Rilke, Neruda, and Agee), and Lux Aeterna. His principal publishers are Peermusic (New York/Hamburg) and Peermusic's European affiliate, FaberMusic (London).
His works have been recorded on more than a hundred CDs, three of which have received Grammy nominations including O Magnum Mysterium by the Tiffany Consort, led by Nicholas White; and two all-Lauridsen discs entitled Lux Aeterna by the Los Angeles Master Chorale conducted by Paul Salamunovich (RCM); and Polyphony with the Britten Sinfonia conducted by Stephen Layton (Hyperion). Other ensembles that have recorded his music include the Robert Shaw, Dale Warland, and Donald Brinegar Singers; the San Francisco, Cleveland, and Dallas Symphony Choruses; Pacific Chorale; Seattle Pro Musica; and the Los Angeles and San Francisco Chamber Singers.
Lauridsen is a recipient of numerous grants, prizes, and commissions. He chaired the Composition Department at the USC Thornton School of Music (1990-2002) and founded the School's Advanced Studies Program in Film Scoring. He was Composer-in-Residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale (1995-2001) and has held residencies as a guest composer/lecturer at more than two dozen universities.
He divides his time now between Los Angeles and his summer cabin on a remote island off the northern coast of Washington State. He was named an “American Choral Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2005. Further information about Mr. Lauridsen may be found at mortenlauridsen.com
The 2007 National Medal of Arts was awarded to composer Morten Lauridsen and presented by President Bush on November 15, 2007 in an East Room ceremony. Mr. Lauridsen received the award for “his compositions of radiant choral works combining musical beauty, power, and spiritual depth that have thrilled audiences worldwide.” The National Medal of Arts is a presidential initiative managed by the National Endowment for the Arts. Photo by Michael Stewart for the National Endowment for the Arts
< 2007 National Medal of Arts press release
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