Ned Rorem, main American composer and diarist, has died at age 99 : Misleading Cadence : NPR


Composer Ned Rorem in 1953 in Paris, the place he lived for practically a decade and wrote his notorious Paris Diary.

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Composer Ned Rorem in 1953 in Paris, the place he lived for practically a decade and wrote his notorious Paris Diary.

Offered by the artist

American composer Ned Rorem has died at age 99. The Pulitzer Prize winner was finest recognized for his artwork songs — and his controversial diaries. Rorem died Friday morning at his residence in Manhattan. His writer, Boosey & Hawkes, confirmed his loss of life from pure causes to NPR.

Ned Rorem was quietly defiant, in additional methods than one. The primary was by the music he selected to put in writing. Whereas he did compose symphonies, concertos and operas — the sorts of items that can win you a Pulitzer — his status rests on his huge physique of greater than 500 artwork songs.


The track “The Lordly Hudson” gained Ned Rorem his first award. The composer received an early begin with a scholarship to check at Philadelphia’s prestigious Curtis Institute of Music when he was simply 19. Then got here a Fulbright, then a Guggenheim and, in 1976, the Pulitzer for his orchestral work Air Music: Ten Etudes for Orchestra.

Air Music was an exception when it got here to the composer’s musical language — one thing that marked one other little bit of defiance on Rorem’s half. Normally, he held on to a conservative strategy at a time when the prevailing model was tutorial and atonal “serial music” through which practitioners did away with conventional tonality and favored collection of notes that have been meant to look unfamiliar.


And as Rorem advised NPR in 2003 together with his typical wit, his defiance meant no one paid any consideration to him.

“When the serial killers got here alongside, loads of very tonal composers defected to the opposite camp, and so they wrote what was being written in these days,” he mentioned. ” Just a few nonetheless do. However some defected, and got here again. I felt just like the prodigal son’s older brother — I might all the time been a very good boy.”

Lots of people noticed issues fairly in another way when it got here to issues non-musical. The truth is, Rorem was “licentious” and “extremely indiscreet,” within the phrases of The New Yorker author Janet Flanner. She was speaking about his prose, and she or he meant it as a praise. Over time, Rorem grew to become recognized for his diaries — maybe much more than for his music. It began in 1966 together with his Paris Diary, which included an express chronicle of homosexual life lengthy earlier than such a factor grew to become routine.

Tim Web page, a Pulitzer Prize-winning music critic himself, is a fan of Rorem’s prose. “Although I like his compositions rather a lot,” Web page says, “I’d say that in some methods, the diaries and the criticism are the issues which imply essentially the most to me. The bracing factor about Ned is that even once you disagree with him, he will get you pondering — and I feel that is one signal of an actual grasp critic.”

Rorem, who was born Oct. 23, 1923 in Richmond, Ind., shared completely different elements of himself relying on which medium he was working in. The written phrase is the place he shared the small print of his private life. In his music, not a lot.

“Ned nearly prided himself on a sure emotional detachment, on a sure form of craftsmanship. His diaries have been the place he saved his diary — his music was one thing else,” Web page says.

This is how Rorem himself put it in one in all his books, referred to as Lies:

“I do not imagine that composers notate their moods, they do not inform the music the place to go. It leads them … Why do I write music? As a result of I wish to hear it. It is easy as that. Others could have extra expertise, extra sense of obligation. However I compose simply from necessity, and nobody else is making what I want.”


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