When Pulitzer-winning composer David Lang decided to host an online search this winter to find a pianist to play his newest piece, "Wed," he restricted the competition to countries not sanctioned by the American government. Pianists from Iran, Cuba, Belarus, Zimbabwe and the other nations unable to gain visas to the U.S., weren't eligible to try for Lang's prize: a trip to New York City to play "Wed," and premiere a 4-hand piece with British pianist Andrew Zolinsky.
But "blog postings" and "emails from disappointed Iranian musicians" led Lang to change his decision, he said in an interview posted today on NewMusicBox.
"It was great to be reminded that even simple things we do here may have deeper political meanings, and that music's goal should be to connect people and not divide them. And it was particularly amazing to discover--duh!--that the internet works, and messages like this one get read and felt all around the world."
The first of its kind for classical music, Lang's competition requires entrants to upload specially-tagged YouTube videos of themselves playing "Wed," for which Lang has provided the score online. The videos will be judged in the new year by a panel of well-known pianists, including Zolinsky.
According to Rob Wendt, a pianist who communicated with Lang's publishing company, Red Poppy Music, after complaining about the original rules on YouTube, the restriction resulted from advice from Red Poppy's lawyers to "comply with Homeland Security guidelines."
"This is the type of globalization that I'm interested in," Wendt wrote on the music blog I Care If You Listen, after learning that Lang reversed the restriction.
Of the seven videos that have been posted, it's unclear how many, if any, are from the countries Lang initially restricted. Still, Lang is prepped for a winner emerging from one, telling NewMusicBox they'd "deal with the visa things when we have to." The competition ends Dec. 31.
WATCH composer David Lang introduce his competition, before he changed the rules:
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article cited I Care If You Listen editor Thomas Deneuville as the musician who communicated with Red Poppy Music, instead of I Care contributor Rob Wendt.