Dan Kleinman, acting dean of Columbia University School of the Arts, said that Zorn's "astonishingly diverse and extraordinary body of work has enlightened, startled, and enchanted its listeners. His lasting contribution to the repertoire of today has changed the landscape of composition."
Named for William Schuman, its first recipient, the award (established in 1981) offers an unrestricted grant of $50,000 to an American composer "whose works have been widely performed and generally acknowledged to be of lasting significance."
Previous winners have included David Diamond, Gunther Schuller, Milton Babbitt, Hugo Weisgall, and in 2001, Steve Reich.
Zorn is a New York City native and has been a central figure in the downtown scene since 1975, incorporating a wide range of musicians in various compositional formats. Early inspirations include Ives, Varse, Cage, Carter and Partch; the European tradition of Berg, Stravinsky, Boulez and Kagel; soundtrack composers Herrmann, Morricone and Stalling; and avant-garde theatre, film, and art.
Zorn's music was highlighted at one of the Miller Theatre's Composer Portraits concerts last October. Also last fall, the composer won a "genius" grant from the MacArthur Foundation.
The Miller Theatre will host a concert and awards ceremony for Zorn on April 26.