Two groundbreaking female improvisers, cellist Tomeka Reid and electronic musician Ikue Mori, were among the 25 people selected this year to receive fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation—known colloquially as “genius grants.”
A major force in the world of improvised music for the past decade, Reid has led her own groups and participated in several others as a member, including the Art Ensemble of Chicago and the Artifacts trio with flutist Nicole Mitchell and percussionist Mike Reed. She also composes and arranges works for small and large ensembles with varied instrument combinations. In 2013, Reid founded the Chicago Jazz String Summit, an annual three-day event of workshops, master classes, and performances that celebrate stringed instruments’ unique contributions to the improvisational jazz sphere.
Mori first established herself as a musician in the late 1970s, when she became the drummer of the influential No Wave band DNA shortly after moving from her native Japan to New York City. In subsequent years she developed an intense interest in technology, performing initially with electronic percussion and eventually on laptops, which she now uses almost exclusively for both composition and performance. Her recent collaborators include pianist Satoko Fuji, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, and guitarist Fred Frith.
MacArthur Fellowships are five-year grants given, in the foundation’s words, “to individuals who show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future.” Each of this year’s 25 fellows will receive $800,000 with no strings attached.
For more information about the MacArthur Fellowships, visit the foundation’s website.