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Iggy Pop and Ensemble Intercontemporain Named 2022 Polar Music Prize Laureates

Royal ceremony in Stockholm resumes after a two-year COVID gap.

Iggy Pop, one of the founding fathers of punk music, and Ensemble Intercontemporain, a classical music assemblage based in Paris, have been named the Laureates of the Polar Music Prize for 2022. The royal ceremony and banquet will take place in Stockholm on May 24 after a two-year COVID gap.

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This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first Polar Music Prize ceremony, which honored Paul McCartney and the Baltic States, in 1992. The Prize was founded and funded by Stig “Stikkan” Anderson, the noted Swedish songwriter, producer, label owner and music publisher who was the manager of ABBA. After the Nobel Prize Committee rejected Anderson’s suggestion of a Nobel Prize for music, he created the Polar Music Prize on his own.

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“I was aware of the very fine range of people that have gotten the Polar Music Prize,” Iggy Pop (born James Newell Osterberg, Jr. in Muskegon, Mich.) said in a video statement released by the Polar Music Prize committee. “(2011 Laureate) Patti Smith and (2007 Laureate) Steve Reich have been huge for me forever, I love a lot of what he does, and so many others, so it’s a nice step for me. I respect it and I’m honored by it. I’m looking forward to coming to Stockholm in May to receive the Polar Music Prize.”

“Receiving the Polar Music Prize was definitely unexpected,” Ensemble Intercontemporain Music Director Matthias Pintscher tells Billboard. “Being honored with this recognition is very meaningful. This award is an encouragement on a deeply human level to learn to listen to each other. We are the ambassadors of a sonic phenomenon that can touch people. Coming out of the (COVID) crisis, listening is more important than ever. I am super proud for our musicians.” Pintscher will attend the ceremony and accept the Prize with Olivier Leymarie, managing director of Ensemble Intercontemporain.

Iggy Pop was the lead vocalist and lyricist of the Stooges, formed in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1967. Inspired by garage rock bands of the 1960s, the Stooges are considered one of the seminal proto-punk outfits. In the 1970s, Pop befriended and collaborated with David Bowie. Between 1977 and 2018, Pop released 19 studio albums.

Ensemble Intercontemporain was founded in Paris in 1976 by French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez. The Ensemble, composed of 31 full-time musicians, is in residence at the Philharmonie de Paris but they compose and play music all over the world. The members work in close collaboration with composers, developing projects that interweave music, dance, theater, film, video and visual arts. The Ensemble is known for its strong emphasis on music education, including concerts for children, creative workshops for students and training programs for future performers, conductors and composers.

The citation for Iggy Pop reads in part, “Iggy Pop created furious rock music by blending together blues and free jazz influences with the roar of the Michigan automotive industry. With his courage, initiative and raw power, Iggy Pop paved the way for punk and post-punk. Groups like the Sex Pistols, Ramones, Blondie, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division and Nick Cave all followed in his footsteps. As a solo artist, Iggy Pop has never slowed down, and has instead pushed this art form forwards for half a century. Iggy Pop is ‘the chairman of the bored’ who portrays alienation in poetic language. A wholly unique artist who personifies and embodies what rock music is about.”

Ensamble intercontemporain
Luc Hossepied*

The citation for Ensemble Intercontemporain reads in part, “Ensemble Intercontemporain is the Stradivarius of modern music and has inspired the greatest composers of our time to create new masterpieces since the 1970s. Thanks to its openness to new technology and collaborating with other art forms, this groundbreaking ensemble has been enormously important for pushing progress. Ensemble Intercontemporain is made up of 31 soloists and has a repertoire that now includes over 2,000 modern pieces. Thanks to its focus on creativity, innovation and high quality, as well as focusing on engaging with young musicians, the ensemble has helped to advance the entire world of music.”

The Laureates will receive their prizes from Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden, at the Stockholm ceremony in May. The prize carries an award of one million Swedish Kronor ($109,000).

In 2020, the Polar Music Prize announced the Laureates for that year, American songwriter Diane Warren and Russian-born operatic prima donna Anna Netrebko. The June 2020 ceremony was postponed to May 2021 and was then canceled during the ongoing pandemic crisis. Warren will attend the 2022 ceremony and will receive her award from the King, according to Prize managing director Marie Ledin. Netrebko performed at the Stockholm Konserthuset on Oct. 16, 2021, and received her Prize from Queen Silvia on stage that evening.

The 2022 Laureates join a long list of honorees that includes Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Yo-Yo Ma, B.B. King, Metallica, Renée Fleming, Pink Floyd, Sting, Quincy Jones, Bob Dylan, Isaac Stern, Ravi Shankar, Bruce Springsteen, Chuck Berry, Björk, Ennio Morricone, Ray Charles, Emmylou Harris, Led Zeppelin, Miriam Makeba, Burt Bacharach, Robert Moog, Sonny Rollins, the Kronos Quartet, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, Grandmaster Flash, Max Martin, Dizzy Gillespie and Wayne Shorter.