Music Composition (Contemporary) – Bark (Susan and Tim Lee), Terminal Everything
The winner in Contemporary Music Composition is Bark, (Susan Bauer Lee and Tim Lee) for Terminal Everything. Bark is the collaboration between a husband-and-wife vocal duo, with Susan’s accompaniment on drums and Tim’s on a Bass Vi, a hybrid bass and guitar. Launched in 2014, Bark is based in Knoxville, Tennessee. Terminal Everything is Bark’s fourth release. It has been described as “a lo-fi post-punk garage-rock combo inspired by American blues and roots revisionists.” The Lees named their band Bark because of their love of dogs, particularly basset hounds. According to one reviewer, in this release they’ve stripped down their music to its bare essentials while incorporating the juke-joint blues from their native Mississippi. The album was the result of a period of loss for both of them when Susan lost her father and Tim his mother in the same week. In “Big Ol’ Party,” they imagine throwing a party that crosses over into the afterlife. In “Apocalypse Shimmy” they suggest throwing a party at the end of time to dance the world away. As a reviewer noted, “This is music that celebrates life despite its necessary pains and setbacks.” Susan was born in Gadsden, Alabama, but grew up primarily in Mendenhall, Mississippi, and considers it her hometown. She majored in art at Millsaps College and graduated with a BA in 1988. She is a designer for Living Blues, the Southern Register, and designs posters for MIAL. The son of a Methodist bishop, Tim attended seven different public schools in twelve years, but grew up primarily in Jackson and considers it his hometown. His Jackson-based band, the Windbreakers, won the Icon Award in 2018. Tim has been playing music since he was a teenager, but since Susan started playing (first bass guitar, now drums) in the early 2000s “the entire process (writing, playing, recording, touring) has become more enjoyable for me.”
Recipients’ remarks: There are three things that make this award particularly special to us. First of all, at our age it’s nice to be honored for your recent work as opposed to the work of your youth. Secondly, as rock ’n’ roll folk, it’s great to be recognized for the artistry of the work. And third . . . did you see that nomination list? That’s a crazy amount of coolness and talent. We would’ve never guessed that we would be chosen over that group of sensational artists. No matter where we’ve lived—and we’ve moved around a lot over the years—Mississippi is home and has always served as our primary inspiration. We’re incredibly honored to receive this award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. Thank you.
On selecting Terminal Everything for this award, Judge Karl Markgraf wrote, “Among all of the talented artists nominated, Bark’s Terminal Everything stood out for its unique songwriting and composition. From the brooding and dissonant guitar riffs of 'Chimneyville,' to the optimistic and feel-good 'Good Part,' they show a dynamic range in songwriting. The album still feels cohesive, as each song features thoughtful and relatable lyrics framed by distinctive and interesting arrangements.”
Karl Markgraf is a performing and recording artist based in New York City. He holds a bachelor’s degree in jazz guitar from the University of Northern Colorado. Markgraf has performed with several Grammy-winning artists, including Wynton Marsalis, Robin Eubanks, Bon Iver, and Jeff Coffin (of Dave Matthews band). He is currently working with many different artists as a guitarist, singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist.