Wayne Peterson, a prolific composer whose 1992 win by the Pulitzer Prize sparked debate over whether an expert or average listener was the best judge of music, died in San Francisco on April 7. He was 93.
His son Grant confirmed the death, in a hospital that he said came seven weeks after Mr. Peterson’s partner of decades, Ruth nair.
Mr. Peterson won the Pulitzer for his creation “The Face of the Night, Heart of the Dark” But only the 19-member Pulitzer committee rejected the advice of a three-member music jury, which initially recommended that Ralph receive Shape’s “Concerto Fantastic” award.
The jury was composed of creators who had the ability to study work scores, while committee members, mostly journalists, had no special expertise in music. Dusty When the jury submitted only one piece, Mr. Shape, in his recommendation to the committee, instead of three candidates, as was customary.
The committee sent back the recommendation, demanding at least one more name. When the jury reacted with Mr. Shape’s work and Mr. Peterson’s, while indicating that Mr. Shape’s work was its first choice, the committee instead awarded Mr. Peterson. The gamblers responded with a scathing rhetorical complaint, stating, “Such a change by a committee without the guarantee of professional musical expertise, if continued, a liable devaluation of this uniquely significant award.”
The incident dragged its hand largely on whether experts or a more general panel should determine the winner of the music award, a problem that the Pulitzers had previously encountered in other genres. The controversy was surprising, as music critics for The New York Times later wrote, not necessarily a case of Mr. Peterson’s work being more listener-friendly than Mr. Shape’s – both men had autonomous work. wrote. Some authors suggested that the case belonged to the Pulitzer committee, asserting its dominance over the jury.
In any event, the controversy left Mr. Peterson in an awkward position, as he knew the members of the jury who had made a mistake in the decision, and ever since he praised Mr. Shape for his actions.
“He was thrilled to finish second,” Grant Peterson said.
“There was no bad blood,” he said. “It was just a type of boomer because it was not his making.”
Mr. Peterson himself admitted that the controversy left him with mixed feelings.
He told the Times in 1992, “I think I sent work as a defeat, and I didn’t think I had any remote chance of winning.” That of others. The controversy has made it a bit different. I just hope that this thing will not jeopardize what Pulitzer can help broadcast my music. “
Grant Peterson said that, in that regard, the episode proved to be a plus – the award, he said, promoted recognition of his father’s name, and it brought him more lucrative commissions.
Wayne Turner Peterson was born on September 3, 1927 in Albert Lee, Minn. His father, Leslie, “was a victim of depression” in 1992, he told the Associated Press in 1992, which “bounced around from one thing to another”. ; His mother, Irma (Turner) Peterson, died when she was younger, and she lived with her grandmother, her son said.
His musical ability, which he said came from his mother’s side of the family, manifested itself quickly.
“I was very interested in jazz piano and was a professional jazz musician since the age of 15,” he said. “I put myself through college by playing jazz at Miz University through three degrees” – a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate, all earned in the 1950s.
He became a professor of music at San Francisco State University in 1960, and composed there for more than 30 years. He lived in San Francisco at the time of his death.
Mr. Peterson’s career as a musician began with his performance in 1958 “Free variations” By the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (now Minnesota Orchestra). He composed for orchestras, chamber ensembles, and other groups, sometimes unusual. “And Winds Shall Blow,” which premiered in Germany in 1994, was described as a fantasy “saxophone quartet for winds and percussion.” He also had duos for Viola and Violoncello.
“A nervous, effectively written piece, filled with dark melodies well suited to these low string instruments, the pair create a sharp and exciting climax,” Michael kimmelman wrote In 1988 when the work was done in The Times at 92nd Street Y.
Mr. Peterson considered it important for a musician to listen to the works of others on a wider scale.
In 1991, he told the San Francisco Chronicle, “I don’t limit myself to a single composer group.” In my music. “
His love of jazz also earned his place in his compositions, including “The Face of the Night, the Heart of the Dark”.
“There’s a lot you can associate with jazz,” he said of the work, “but it’s not a jazz piece.”
It premiered in October 1991 by the San Francisco Symphony. In the midst of controversies, even George Perley, the chairman of the Pulitzer jury, who recommended the piece of the raid to praise Mr. Peterson’s composition, was at pains.
“It is fully eligible for the Pulitzer Prize,” he said. “
Mr. Shape also, who Died in 2002 And was known for being vocal, came to see his untouched award with a touch of humor.
“A critic in Chicago started calling me ‘Ralph Shape, Non-Pulitzer Prize Winner,” Told The Times in 1996. “They will lay on my grave.”
Mr. Peterson’s marriage to Harriet Christensen ended in divorce in the 1970s. In addition to his son Grant, he has three other sons Alan, Craig and Drew, and two grandchildren.
Grant Peterson said that he had been going through his papers since his father’s death and was amazed at his productivity – not only his nearly 80 finished compositions, but countless pieces.
“That’s the stuff that’s bound and finished and published,” he said, “but mixed in is the chicken-scratch on the yellow tablets. The boy was a music machine.”