Iggy Pop & Ensemble intercontemporain are the Laureates of the Polar Music Prize 2022

Iggy Pop, born James Newell Osterberg, the legendary godfather of punk, and Ensemble intercontemporain, the world’s leading contemporary music ensemble, are today announced as the recipients of the 2022 Polar Music Prize, in what marks the 30th year of the prize. The awards ceremony takes place on Tuesday 24 May in Stockholm at the Grand Hotel, and will be broadcast live in Sweden on TV4 at 8pm (CET). It can be viewed throughout Europe via TV4 Play from 5.30pm (CET).

The Polar Music Prize, renowned as music’s most prestigious honour, returns in 2022, its 30th anniversary, the first recipient being Paul McCartney in 1992. The Prize celebrates all genres of music and each year honours two Laureates, one representing popular music and one from the classical field. Both will receive prize money of one million Swedish Kroner (approx. £83,060/US $110,602).

Marie Ledin, managing director of the Polar Music Prize, said: “We are delighted to return in 2022, after a two year absence due to the pandemic, with two incredibly worthy Laureates. Iggy Pop is unique, there is no one else quite like him. Ensemble intercontemporain are a ground-breaking collective and their work has helped push the boundaries of modern classical music. We’re thrilled that we can come together to honour and celebrate the important work of both of these Laureates.”

On being awarded the Polar Music Prize, Iggy Pop said: “I was aware of the very fine range of people that had gotten the Polar Music Prize… so it’s a nice step for me. I respect it and I’m honoured by it… I’m looking forward to coming to Stockholm in May to receive the Prize.”

Matthias Pintscher, musical director of Ensemble intercontemporain, said: “I’m beyond excited to be coming to Stockholm in May to receive the Polar Music Prize in honour of the Ensemble intercontemporain.”

Iggy Pop, punk pioneer and one of the world’s most influential musicians, has continued to innovate, agitate, and inspire across five decades. He is the powerhouse behind some of the greatest live performances in rock ‘n’ roll history and has a back catalogue of untouchable class, both as a solo artist and as frontman of The Stooges. His singular voice, aura and attitude have helped to light fires that blazed trails across the worlds of punk, grunge, and generations of alternative music.

His influence is cited by some of the most renowned names in the industry. Alice Cooper praised Iggy Pop as “a force of nature”. Acts including The Sex Pistols, Nirvana, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Queens Of The Stone Age, Joy Division and Siouxsie Sioux have all taken cues from Pop. Even pop acts have cited his influence, with Miley Cyrus saying in a 2020 feature with Interview Magazine that “people ask me who I’ve studied for my movement on stage, and I always say Iggy Pop.” He is a true icon whose timeless work and rarefied talent continues to push boundaries and inspire.

Iggy Pop said: “At first I was trying to write rock operas, art pieces, but it wasn’t making it. I started writing basic, long pieces that had a good beat. I was fortunate to have so much respect and interest in what Bob Dylan was doing in the sixties, that I didn’t want to get anywhere near imitating him, or trying to do what he does. That kept me from being too wordy. I wanted to describe the macrocosm, in the way that writers like him did, without getting out of character for a kid from the mid-west. So I tried to do everything with just a few words, and make those words create the sketch of a picture that the listener can fill in.”

Ensemble intercontemporain is the world’s leading contemporary music ensemble. It was founded in 1976 by the late French composer Pierre Boulez, who received the prize in 1996, with the support of Michel Guy and Nicholas Snowman. Under the artistic guidance of its musical director Matthias Pintscher, the collective collaborates with composers, exploring instrumental techniques and developing projects that interweave music, dance, theatre, film, video and visual arts. It is the first and longest standing organisation of its type in the world.

Ensemble intercontemporain places a strong emphasis on education for aspiring musicians, helping the future generations of musical talent to thrive. It hosts creative workshops for students, concerts for children and training programmes for budding performers, conductors and composers. The ensemble not only creates and inspires, but works to encourage and nourish musical promise on a global level.

Matthias Pintscher said: “The Ensemble intercontemporain consists of 31 soloists. In that sense, we are not really a chamber orchestra, but it’s an ensemble which makes us, in size, the biggest ensemble for contemporary music in the world. It allows us to create a repertoire that is truly unique and really ours – basically tailored to the size and the needs of the ensemble.

“These amazing musicians have such an open mindset and I find that really unique. They have this incredibly high responsibility for not only new work, for every work that we perform. It’s a pleasure to jump into this bubbling pool of creativity every time we get together and explore the works that we are performing.”

In 2022 the Polar Music Prize celebrates 30 years of recognising excellence in the world of music. Its honours list of Laureates reads like a who’s who of musical greatness. Sir Paul McCartney, the first honouree, said: “…when you’re chosen from everyone in the world…it’s such a high honour, that even big heads like me get impressed.” Laureates include Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Chuck Berry, Ennio Morricone, Bjork, Led Zeppelin, Patti Smith, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Elton John, Metallica, and many more.

The Polar Music Prize Award Committee is an independent 11-member board which selects the Laureates. It receives nominations from the public as well as from the International Music Council, the UNESCO founded NGO which promotes geographical and musical diversity.

Photo of Iggy Pop by Rob Baker Ashton.