STOCKHOLM, May 24 (AFP) ó Sweden's prestigious Polar Music Prize was on Monday [24 May] presented to B. B. King for his contribution to the blues and to Gyˆrgy Ligeti for his innovations in classical music.
King, being honored for his role in spreading the blues, the forerunner of modern popular music, and his significant contribution to the genre, proudly accepted his prize from Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf at the Stockholm Concert Hall, which is also where the Nobel Prize ceremony takes place.
"I'm a little nervous. I have never met a king before. But I'm also grateful, so grateful. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart," the 78-year-old American blues artist said according to Swedish news agency TT.
Swedish Queen Silvia and Crown Princess Victoria were also at the ceremony. The Polar Music Prize was founded in 1989 by the late Stig Anderson, the publisher, lyricist and manager of iconic Swedish pop group ABBA.
"King's total dedication to his music, a rich recording history and tireless touring lasting more than half a century have made him one of the most prominent figures within the blues," the Academy said after selecting him for the prize, sometimes dubbed the unofficial "Nobel prize for music", late last year. "We have all had him as a role model," Jimmy Page of rock group Led Zeppelin said at the prize ceremony on Monday, according to TT.
Ligeti, 81, was too weak to make the trip to Stockholm, so his secretary accepted the prize on his behalf for his role in expanding the frontiers of classical music.
Hungarian-born, like his famous forerunner and influence BÈla BartÛk, Ligeti helped breathe new life into a music form that peaked in the 19th century with the great symphonies, but then moved away from the mainstream ó making room for popular music forms like the blues, B. B. King's domain.
The Academy credited Ligeti with "stretching the boundaries of the musically conceivable, from mind-expanding sounds to new astounding processes, in a thoroughly personal style that embodies both inquisitiveness and imagination".
Often using traditional instruments in an unconventional way, Ligeti also sometimes shunned instruments altogether, writing pieces like a Symphonic Poem for 100 Metronomes, which in a live performance ends when the final tick has been heard.
In addition to the prize, King and Ligeti received a check for one million kronor (US$131,000; 110,000 euros) each. Among past winners are ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, American jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie, Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, British pop musician Elton John, French classical conductor and composer Pierre Boulez, and American popular and folk musicians Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and Bob Dylan. Jazz pianist Keith Jarrett won the award last year.
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