|Birth name||Caroline Adelaide Shaw|
|Born||August 1, 1982|
Greenville, North Carolina, U.S.
Early life and education
Shaw was born in Greenville, North Carolina, and began playing the violin when she was two years old. Her mother was her first teacher. She began writing music when she was 10 years old, mostly in imitation of the chamber music of Mozart and Brahms. At the time, her main focus was on violin performance. Shaw received her Bachelor of Music (violin performance) from Rice University in 2004, and her master's degree (violin) from Yale University in 2007. She entered the PhD program in composition in Princeton University in 2010.
At 30, Shaw became the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music for her composition Partita for 8 Voices. The jury citation praised the composition as "a highly polished and inventive a cappella work uniquely embracing speech, whispers, sighs, murmurs, wordless melodies and novel vocal effects." The work comprises four movements inspired by baroque dance forms: Allemande, Sarabande, Courante and Passacaglia. A recording of the work was released by New Amsterdam Records on 30 October 2012, performed by the ensemble Roomful of Teeth (including Shaw). According to Steven Mackey, chair of the Department of Music at Princeton, this is the first Pulitzer Prize awarded to a member of the department. (Milton Babbitt was awarded a Pulitzer citation in 1982 for his life's work as a composer.)
Besides composition, Shaw is known as a musician appearing in many guises. She performs primarily as violinist with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) and as vocalist with Roomful of Teeth. She also works with the Trinity Wall Street Choir, Alarm Will Sound, Wordless Music Orchestra, Ensemble Signal, AXIOM, The Yehudim, Victoire, Opera Cabal, the Mark Morris Dance Group Ensemble, Hotel Elefant, the Oracle Hysterical, Red Light New Music, Robert Mealy's Yale Baroque Ensemble.
Her works have been performed by Roomful of Teeth, So Percussion, ACME, the Brentano String Quartet, yMusic, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Shaw has been a Yale Baroque Ensemble fellow and a Rice University Goliard fellow. She received the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship in 2004/5.
In October 2015, rapper Kanye West released a remix of "Say You Will", the opening track from his 2008 album, 808's & Heartbreak. The remix, co-produced by Caroline Shaw, features vocals from Shaw similar to her classical compositions. She also features on "Wolves" and contributed vocals to "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2", both from West's 7th studio album, The Life of Pablo. Shaw also contributed vocals to a leaked version of "Only One" that appeared on the internet in February 2016.
In 2018, the British Broadcasting Corporation with Coretet, the Philips Collection, the Royal Philharmonic Society and the University of Delaware commissioned Shaw to write two works, Second Essay, Echo and Third Essay: Ruby. These received their world premiere, performed by the Calidore String Quartet, at the Cadogan Hall, London on 16 July 2018 in the BBC Proms, where they followed her 2016 work First Essay, Nimrod. According to Shaw, Nimrod was composed while listening to a recording of Marilynne Robinson's book The Givenness of Things and then in the 2016 US presidential election, which she stated accounted for the "disintegration of elements" in the piece. Shaw stated that Echo alluded to the 'echo' function in the PHP programming language, as well as to physical echoes, while Ruby is named for the Ruby programming language as well as for the gemstone.
- Cantico delle creature (2007), for soprano, violin, and piano (with an arrangement for an additional cello), premiered by Abigail Haynes Lennox, Trevor Gureckis, and Shaw in April 2007.
- By and By, for string quartet and voice, premiered by Abigail Lennox and the Hudson Quartet on 11 March 2010.
- Sounds of the Ocean Cassette Vol. 1, for narrator, cassette player, and two instruments, premiered in September 2011.
- Fly Away I, for SATB chorus, premiered by the International Orange Chorale of San Francisco in June 2012.
- Partita for 8 Voices, four pieces for eight singers, written 2009–2011 for Roomful of Teeth, premiered as a whole on 4 November 2013, winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Music.
- Its Motion Keeps, for treble chorus and viola or cello, commissioned by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, premiered, with Shaw on viola, in November 2013.
- Music in Common Time, for chorus and strings, premiered by Roomful of Teeth and A Far Cry on 10 May 2014.
- Anni’s Constant, for chorus, two violins, cello, piano, guitar, bass guitar, and percussion, commissioned by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and BAM, premiered November 2014.
- and the swallow, for SATB chorus, on text from Psalm 84; premiered by the Netherlands Chamber Choir on 11 November 2017.
- Dolce Cantavi, for three voices (SSA), on a text by Francesca Turina Bufalini, Contessa di Stupinigi (1544-1641), commissioned and premiered by TENET (Jolle Greenleaf, Molly Quinn, and Virginia Warnken Kelsey performing).
- Can’t voi l’aube (2016), on an anonymous 12th century French trouvère text; written for Anne Sofie von Otter and Brooklyn Rider.
- Ad manus (To the Hands) (2016), commissioned by The Crossing for Seven Responses, a seven-piece compilation inspired by Dieterich Buxtehude's Membra Jesu Nostri cantatas.
- so quietly (2016), premiered on 9 June 2016 by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.
- Don't Let Me Be Lonely (2016), for voices and small chamber group, on text by Claudia Rankine, commissioned by the Ojai Music Festival where it was premiered on 11 June 2016 by Shaw and Roomful of Teeth.
- Is a Rose, three songs commissioned by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra for Anne Sofie von Otter:
- Narrow Sea (2017), a five-part song cycle on texts from The Sacred Harp.
- in manus tuas, for cello or viola, premiered by Hannah Collins in 2009.
- Gustave Le Gray, for piano, premiered by Amy Yang on 24 April 2012.
- The Walking Man, for shakuhachi, written with and for Riley Lee, premiered on 3 April 2012.
- Punctum (2009, revised 2013), for string quartet, workshopped in 2009–2010 with the Hudson Quartet and the Franklin Quartet, premiered in April 2010. Revised in 2013 for the Brentano Quartet.
- Entr'acte, for string quartet, premiered by the Brentano Quartet on 21 March 2011.
- Jacques Duran, for string trio, premiered by Lorna Tsai, Sage Cole, and Jonina Allan Mazzeo on 26 August 2011.
- Limestone & Felt, for cello and viola, premiered by Hannah Collins and Hannah Shaw in January 2012.
- Taxidermy, for percussion quartet (flower pots, vibraphones, and marimba), premiered by Sō Percussion on 2 May 2012.
- Valencia, for string quartet, premiered by Lorna Tsai, Shaw, Sage Cole, and Shay Rudolph in August 2012.
- Boris Kerner, for cello and flower pots, premiered by New Morse Code (Hannah Collins and Mike Compitello) on 20 November 2012.
- Plan & Elevation: The Grounds of Dumbarton Oaks, for string quartet, commissioned by Dumbarton Oaks, premiered by the Dover Quartet on 1 November 2015.
- Draft of a High-Rise, for sextet, commissioned by Carnegie Hall and yMusic, premiered by the latter on 2 December 2016. In three movements (Inked Frame ; A Scribbled Veneer ; Their Stenciled Breath ).
- Blueprint (2016), for string quartet, commissioned by the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts for the Aizuri Quartet.
- First Essay: Nimrod (2016), commissioned by Coretet for the Calidore String Quartet, premiered 6 November 2016.
- Second Essay: Echo and Third Essay: Ruby, commissioned by the BBC and Chamber Music Northwest, premiered at The Proms by the Calidore String Quartet on 16 July 2018.
- Really Craft When You (2017), commissioned by Bang on a Can All Stars.
- The Evergreen (2020), for string quartet, commissioned by Third Angle New Music, Bravo! Vail, Coretet, and Ragazze Quartet. In four movements (Moss ; Stem ; Water ; Root ).
- Entr’acte, for string orchestra (2014) (an arrangement of the 2011 work for string quartet), commissioned by A Far Cry.
- The Baltimore Bomb (2016), commissioned by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, premiered on 17 September 2016.
- Lo (2016), concerto for violin and orchestra, premiered 16 March 2016 by Shaw and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, which co-commissioned the work with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the North Carolina Symphony, and the Princeton Symphony Orchestra.
- Watermark (2018), concerto for piano and orchestra, commissioned by the Seattle Symphony and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, premiered on 31 January 2019 by pianist Jonathan Biss and the Seattle Symphony.
- The Listeners (2019), cantata/oratorio for orchestra, chorus, two soloists, and turntable; on texts by Walt Whitman, William Drummond of Hawthornden, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Carl Sagan, Yesenia Montilla, and Lucille Clifton; premiered on 17 October 2019 by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra under conductor Nicholas McGegan.
- Ritornello, premiered on 27 January 2012.
Shaw appeared as herself in season 4 of the Amazon Prime series Mozart in the Jungle, for a story line that involved a main character seeking to premiere her piece "Hi" in a competition for conductors. The piece was also played live at the series' release party, with Shaw conducting.
As featured artist
|Title||Year||Peak chart positions||Album|
(Kanye West featuring Desiigner and Caroline Shaw)
|2016||54||The Life of Pablo|
|"Say You Will" (Remix)||2015||Kanye West||Non-album song|
|"Only One" (Original Demo)||2015||Kanye West||Non-album song|
|"FML"||2016||Kanye West, The Weeknd||The Life of Pablo|
|"Wolves"||Kanye West, Vic Mensa, Sia|
|"Freestyle 4"||2016||Kanye West, Desiigner|
|"No Mistakes"||2018||Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Charlie Wilson||Ye|
|"Everything"||Nas, The-Dream, Kanye West, Tony Williams, 070 Shake||Nasir|
|"Take Me to the Light"||2019||Francis and the Lights, Bon Iver, Kanye West, Chance the Rapper||Take Me to the Light|
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Kanye West has shared two new tracks on his Soundcloud: a new version of "Say You Will"... that features Pulitzer-winning musician Caroline Shaw
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