The Grammy Awards have announced what could be a significant change in the Pop Instrumental Album Category. They’ve reconstituted it as the Contemporary Instrumental Album. The ramifications could be interesting since “contemporary instrumental” is a much more generic designation that could bring in all kinds of music that isn’t rock, pop, jazz or folk, potentially opening up opportunities for instrumental artists who aren’t just MOR instrumental acts or rock stars slumming in instrumental music. And maybe since Contemporary Instrumental Music has been designated a “Field” and Best Contemporary Instrumental Album a category in that field, it could open up the creation of new categories like space music, ambient, new acoustic, solo guitar, etc.
With Contemporary Instrumental Album as a category, it makes one wonder if the “New Age” category isn’t redundant, if not superfluous. It is the the only other predominantly instrumental category that isn’t jazz, classical or soundtracks, yet all but Brian Eno from last years nominees could easily fit in the new CIA category. New Age is specifically excluded from this category, but what is New Age. Could this be an opportunity for many artists to escape that purgatory. It seems like the logical category for people like Mark McGuire, Hammock, Carl Weingarten, and Hans Christian to name a few recent Echoes CD of the Month selections, not to mention R. Carlos Nakai who has been inexplicably shut out of the winner’s circle in both New Age and the deleted Native American category despite numerous nominations.
Could something materially change? In this new category, it would be less likely that barely known, already-forgotten parlor pianists like Laura Sullivan would beat out legends like Brian Eno, Nakai and Kitaro, which she did last year in one of the most egregious New Age awards in history. More people vote in the pop category making the vote-getting tactics employed, validly, by Sullivan less effective. Or perhaps more inventive artists can beat out middle-of-the-road easy listening CDs like Herb Alpert’s Steppin’ Out in this newly formulated category. I know I would like to see that new nominating selection committee in action.
Here’s the Grammy’s statement:
The Best Pop Instrumental Album category has been moved from the pop field into a new field, renamed and redefined:
FIELD: Contemporary Instrumental Music
CATEGORY: Best Contemporary Instrumental Album
This award is given to the artist(s) and any producer(s) or engineer(s) responsible for at least 51% playing time of an album containing at least 51% playing time of newly recorded music of a contemporary nature (other than American roots, classical, jazz, new age, world music, and purely traditional styles) and incorporating elements of modern music and/or production techniques. Albums must contain approximately 75% or more playing time of instrumental material.
John Diliberto (((echoes)))