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Music News: Pultizer Prize Winners, Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

Apr 10, 2017
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In other Pulitzer news, this year's winner in the music category is composer and multi-instrumentalist Du Yun for her work "Angel's Bone." Joining us to talk more about the winner and other music headlines NPR's classical music producer, Tom Huizenga - hey there, Tom.

TOM HUIZENGA, BYLINE: Hey, Audie.

CORNISH: And NPR Music senior editor Jacob Ganz. Welcome back, Jacob.

JACOB GANZ, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.

CORNISH: So, Tom, first start by telling us about Du Yun.

HUIZENGA: Well, Du Yun is a 39-year-old native of Shanghai. She's a composer, musician. She's been called a indie pop diva with a avant garde edge. But she's also obviously a very serious composer. She's been commissioned by some of our best orchestras here in the U.S. like the Seattle Symphony, Detroit Symphony. "Angel's Bone," her Pulitzer-winning piece, is a searing full-length opera about a couple in middle America who find that a pair of angels have crash-landed in their backyard. They nurse the angels to health only to clip their wings and then exploit them for money.

CORNISH: And then someone has also told me this is, like, a metaphor for human trafficking. Is that right?

HUIZENGA: It's true. I think what stands out is that the opera deals with these kind of tough contemporary social issues and that it's told with an extremely diverse musical palette - a gumbo of many styles, really, including Renaissance choral music and kind of a more punk rock feel that you can hear in this combination of two little excerpts.

(SOUNDBITE OF OPERA, "ANGEL'S BONE")

UNIDENTIFIED CHOIR: (Vocalizing).

(SOUNDBITE OF OPERA, "ANGEL'S BONE")

JENNIFER CHARLES: (As Girl Angel, singing) Brick J. likes it rough, grabs the skeleton of my empty wings.

CORNISH: Now, that's unexpected.

HUIZENGA: (Laughter) I think it's telling, too, that I actually - I caught up with Du Yun just about an hour ago. She's in Abu Dhabi attending a cultural summit. She's super aware of social change issues and making connections across cultures. And she told me that - she was saying, you know, oh, human trafficking, we always think that it happens somewhere, you know, very far from us. But she says if you look closely enough it's happening right in our backyard.

CORNISH: Jacob, I want to turn to you because this weekend there were some other prizes given out. Let's start with the first one.

GANZ: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame awarded its - or inducted its new class this year. David Letterman was actually on hand to induct Pearl Jam, which is probably the biggest, most popular band of the night.

(SOUNDBITE OF 32ND ANNUAL ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME INDUCTION CEREMONY)

DAVID LETTERMAN: It turned out that these guys in Pearl Jam were something more than a band.

(CHEERING)

CORNISH: I certainly agree with Mr. Letterman, though I found it completely random that he was on the stage. Is there any story there?

GANZ: Huge beard. Yeah, David Letterman was there talking about Pearl Jam's importance and their long history as a band that engaged with social issues, including their famous testimony against Ticketmaster in 1994. Other people who were inducted were Tupac Shakur, the rapper, only the sixth hip-hop artist ever inducted. Snoop Dogg did that induction. Journey, the classic rock band whose lead singer, Steve Perry, has been sort of estranged from the band for many years...

CORNISH: The legendary rift. Yeah.

GANZ: Legendary rift. He reunited with the band last night, met its new singer, Arnel Pineda, for the very first time.

CORNISH: And meanwhile, there's a new streaming milestone, I think, right? That's our other headline this week.

GANZ: Yeah. Last week I got the news that the first album to go platinum based on streaming alone happened. That was Kanye West's "The Life Of Pablo." It's been streamed over 3 billion times worldwide. Streaming services are the largest part of the recording industry. They're growing. But musicians usually sell CDs and mp3s as well. The reasons Kanye released this as a streaming-only album are probably clear only to Kanye, but as always, he's a trendsetter.

CORNISH: Big gamble, big win for him. NPR music senior editor Jacob Ganz, thanks so much.

GANZ: You're welcome.

CORNISH: And classical music producer Tom Huizenga, thank you for coming down.

HUIZENGA: Thanks, Audie.

(SOUNDBITE OF KANYE WEST SONG, "REAL FRIENDS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.