2007 National Medal of Arts
Composer, Los Angeles, CA
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
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."
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.
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