Spheres of a genius. Honoring Carla Bley

A jazz composition competition
by JAM MUSIC LAB

in cooperation with the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Call for scores

Spheres of a Genius 2023 – Honoring Carla Bley

A jazz composition competition by JAM MUSIC LAB University (JMLU) in cooperation with the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra (RSO). The prize-winning work will be premiered on October 4th 2023 in the Grand Hall of the Konzerthaus Vienna under the direction of Marin Alsop. The concert will be recorded by ORF and broadcasted on the Ö1 program.

RSO and JMLU are continuing their first collaboration from 2017/2018. The composition competition “Spheres of a Genius” was based on the 100th Birthday of the jazz composer and pianist Thelonious Monk. The subsequent competition paid homage to Leonard Bernstein.

This third “Spheres of a Genius” event pays tribute to Carla Bley.

Join the competition


Download the PDF
Call for scores (English)

1st prize

The prize-winning work will be premiered on Oct 4th 2023 in the Grand Hall of the Konzerthaus Vienna under the direction of chief conductor Marin Alsop. The concert will be recorded by ORF and broadcasted on the Ö1 program.

prize money
€ 5.000 RSO Logo

2nd prize

prize money
€ 3.000

3rd prize

prize money
€ 2.000

Idea and outline of the competition

As a pianist, composer and arranger, Carla Bley first distinguished herself in the 1960’s. She entered the realm of modern creative music – then known as free jazz - producing numerous genre-bending works that stand as touchstones in the development of modern music. Her efforts forged new modes of expression that both reflected and expanded jazz’s conventions.

With the aid of illustrious collaborators – which included Pharoah Sanders, Steve Lacy, George Russell, Steve Swallow, Gary Burton and Charlie Haden - in groups large and small - Bley created a singular voice that continues to inspire forward-thinking artists.

She has shaped generations of music-makers, and her work serves as a model for utilizing jazz’s important innovations in the context of contemporary music. Bley's work continues to inspire women in jazz to arrange and compose, and to help nurture the expansion of groundbreaking ideas.

Carla Bley has shaped generations of music-makers, and her work serves as a model for utilizing jazz's most important impulses into a demanding musical language of the 21st century. Carla Bley's work continues to inspire women in jazz to arrange and compose, and to help nurture the expansion of groundbreaking ideas.
Marcus Ratka, Founder of the composers' competition “Spheres of a Genius”

The aim of the contest

The task of the composition competition relates to the role of Carla Bley as a composer. The winning piece shall succeed in transferring the impulses shaped by her into a demanding musical language of the 21st century.
The special challenge of placing the idioms of jazz in the context of a symphony orchestra should be taken into account.

The submitted composition should embrace her adventurous spirit, utilizing and developing stylistic elements that demonstrate a thorough deliberation of her recorded works. The composer’s aim is to create music showing evidence of inspiration. Innovation and originality will be rewarded.

For much of its development, jazz was a male-dominated genre. Carla Bley made significant contributions leading the way among arrangers, composers and band leaders. Because of her, woman now forge creative opportinites and advancements that push the music forward. She is a central figure and an important role model for the growing group of female composers in jazz. (Marcus Ratka)

The Jury

  • Marin Alsop
    Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra (RSO)
  • Christoph Becher
    General Manager, ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
  • Bill Dobbins
    Jazzpianist, Composer, Professor of Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media at Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester
  • Marcus Ratka
    Composer, Rector of JAM MUSIC LAB, Private University for Jazz and Popular Music, Vienna

Join the competition

  1. Subscribe today by filling in the online form below and download the official call for scores here
    Call for scores (English)
  2. Submit your composition by Feb 20th 2023 via e-mail to bley@jammusiclab.com.