"Zesty," "graceful," "eruptive": critics have described Shulamit Ran's compositions in a variety of ways.Yet most seem to agree that Ran is, as Steve Smith of the New York Times put it, "among America's most widely recognized creators."
Ran, the Andrew MacLeish Distinguished Service Professor in Music, will reflect on her life and recent work on Tuesday, May 4, in the annual Nora and Edward Ryerson Lecture.
The Ryerson Lectures, named for former University board chairman Edward Ryerson, were established in 1972. Each year, a faculty committee selects the speaker based on the lasting significance of their scholarly work.
Previous speakers include David Bevington, the Phyllis Fay Horton Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Humanities, Janet Rowley, the Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor in Medicine, Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, and Human Genetics, and, most recently, John Cacioppo, the Tiffany & Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology.
Jan Goldstein, the Norman and Edna Freehling Professor in History, served on the faculty committee that selected Ran to deliver the lecture. Goldstein said that Ran's work in composition spoke to faculty members in a variety of fields. "She was a choice that brought together people of different disciplines," Goldstein said.
Ran was a precocious musician-she composed her first piece at age 7, and began serious study of piano and composition at 9. By 14, she had performed with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Leonard Bernstein. At 19, she played a solo piano recital at Carnegie Hall. She continued her composition study with famed American composer Norman Dello Joio before joining the Chicago faculty in 1973.
She has received numerous honors for her work, including two Guggenheim fellowships and a 1991 Pulitzer Prize for her Symphony. From 1990 to 1997, she was the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Composer-in-Residence. She is currently the artistic director of the University's new music collective, Contempo.
"I find that composing is like going on an unknown voyage, and you never know where the piece will leave you," Ran told the New York Times in 1991. "So I begin with ideas about the framework, but I try to keep myself flexible, because sometimes the inner necessity of the work demands to go elsewhere."
For more information about this year's Ryerson Lecture, please visit http://president.uchicago.edu/ryerson_2010.shtml.