The music of Spheres by German composer York Hoeller was chosen from more than 100 entries worldwide. In his music, Hoeller often uses electronic sounds with live instruments. This is the first time a German composer has received the Grawemeyer Award for outstanding work in music composition.
In 2006. and the midst of five years working on the 40-minute piece, his wife, Ursula, died. Hoeller says the loss was devastating.
“I was close to the decision not only to stop the composition of that piece,” he says, “but maybe to stop composition in whole.”
Hoeller says he later continued work on the piece after encouragement from Semyon Bychkov, the chief conductor of the West German Broadcasting Corporations’ symphony orchestra in Cologne.
“I received a telephone call and he supported me very intensively in continuing the composition even more,” Hoeller says. “And I came to the idea to add a sixth movement, which referred to the death of my wife.”
Spheres was first performed last year by the orchestra in Cologne. (Listen to the sixth movement here.)
Hoeller says composers who have influenced his work include Debussy and Stravinsky as well as Ligeti, who is known for the music in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The Grawemeyer Foundation at U of L gives awards each year for outstanding work in music composition, ideas improving world order, psychology, education and religion.