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McKnight
Distinguished
Artist 2016

Libby Larsen

A virtuosic composer and an energetic advocate for the artist’s role in making sense of transitional times, McKnight Distinguished Artist Libby Larsen has breathed new life into the concert music tradition for the new millennium.



TPT 's Minnesota Original piece featuring Libby Larsen. Airdate: Feb 28, 2017

With more than 500 major works, Larsen’s vivid and adventuresome catalogue has made her one of America’s most performed living composers, with a fluency that crosses boundaries, from massive technical operas and symphonies to intimate chamber and vocal pieces. A true trailblazer in the world of repertory composition, Larsen was the first female composer in residence with a major orchestra, opening doors for the next generation through the American Composers Forum, which she co-founded in 1973.

From her first symphony Water Music, to her stunning opera Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, to her most recent world premiere Earth — an “essay from space” made to fill the gap in Holst’s The Planets — Larsen’s wide-ranging body of work is united by its imaginative risk-taking, rhythmic energy, and essential optimism. A Grammy winner with more than 50 recordings, Larsen is widely commissioned by leading orchestras and ensembles, creating new work and fruitful collaborations with such artists as James Dunham and Frederica von Stade and ensembles as varied as the Minnesota Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony, Cantus, The King’s Singers, and the Apollo Chamber Players.

“Composers working today are in a strange bridging area; we are redefining ourselves,” Larsen says. “We are philosophizing about the nature of sound in our world today. We are struggling to figure out, in our noise-polluted world, what is sound, what is music, and what is silence.”

Read the press release.


About the Distinguished Artist Award: The annual $50,000 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award recognizes artists who have made a lifelong commitment to creating art that is locally, regionally, and/or nationally significant. These artists have chosen to make their lives and careers in Minnesota, thereby making our state a more culturally rich place. First and foremost, they have made creatively incisive art reflecting their particular and extraordinary point of view. McKnight Distinguished Artists have also inspired younger artists, attracted acclaim from audiences, patrons, critics, and other arts professionals, and some have founded and strengthened arts organizations. The goal of McKnight’s arts funding is to support working artists who create and contribute to vibrant communities. The program is founded on the belief that Minnesota thrives when its artists thrive.

Nominate someone for the Distinguished Artist award.