Joel Bons, a Dutch composer, won the 2019 Grawemeyer Award for music. | Courtesy UofL

A multicultural piece by Dutch composer Joel Bons won the 2019 Grawemeyer Award for music, the University of Louisville announced Monday.

“Nomaden,” Bons’ winning work, is a one-hour piece incorporating an ensemble of diverse instruments, ranging from Chinese to Turkish to Azerbaijani.

“’Nomaden’ is not a traditional concerto but a work for cello and instruments from cultures around the world,” Bons said in a news release. “I imagined an unlimited potential of combinations and an unheard spectrum of timbres. My aim was to create a piece in which the musicians and the instruments, in all their cultural differences, could bloom in full glory.”

A music professor at the Conservatory of Amsterdam, Bons founded the Atlas Ensemble, a group featuring musicians from a variety of cultures. He initially composed the piece for the ensemble to play alongside French cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras, according to the release.

“Art of all kinds is becoming more and more eclectic, juxtaposing materials and influences in increasingly new ways,”
Marc Satterwhite, a UofL music professor in charge of the music award, said in the release. “’Nomaden’ is one of
the most successful musical examples of this trend in recent years.”

UofL offers the $100,000 Grawemeyer Award in five categories — music, improving world order, psychology, education and religion — annually. In a rare but not unprecedented situation, no award will be given in the education category this year after the award committee “could not single out an idea likely to advance our field in a highly significant way.” A UofL spokeswoman said a similar situation has happened at least twice in the contest’s history.

The remaining winners will be announced throughout the first week of December, with the winners visiting Louisville in April to give free talks.

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Olivia Krauth
Krauth reports on education in Louisville, including JCPS, the University of Louisville and state policy. Before joining Insider Louisville, she covered technology and business as a reporter at TechRepublic. She also spent time on the data team at the Austin American-Statesman in Texas as a Dow Jones intern. Krauth graduated from UofL, where she was an award-winning editor of The Louisville Cardinal and obtained a degree in investigative journalism with a minor in Russian studies. Email Olivia at [email protected]