Ned Rorem, Pulitzer-winning composer and famous diarist, dies at 99

Ned Rorem, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and the writer of greater than a dozen printed diaries that had been outstanding for his or her candid entree into elite homosexual and inventive circles from the Nineteen Sixties onward, died Nov. 18 at his house in Manhattan. He was 99.

His niece Mary Marshall confirmed the dying however didn’t present a trigger.

Mr. Rorem first gained fame when he was in his 20s as a composer of “artwork songs” — taut musical settings of poetry that had been supposed to be sung by classically skilled vocalists, normally together with an elaborate half for piano that was much less accompaniment than full complement to the melody.

From the start, he had a transparent understanding of what the human voice may and couldn’t do. His melodies, though strenuous at instances and reasonably dissonant, had been invariably linear, and the phrases normally got here out in a pure, unforced rhythm, nearly as enhanced speech, straightforward for a listener to observe.

By the point Mr. Rorem was 40, he had written greater than 400 such songs, in addition to three symphonies, a number of one-act operas and quite a lot of chamber music, making him one among America’s most prolific composers. He gained the Pulitzer Prize for composition in 1976 for “Air Music,” an orchestral suite.

However Mr. Rorem as soon as named his tune cycle “Proof of Issues Not Seen” (1998) as his best work. For this large composition, which lasts greater than an hour-and-a-half with out intermission, Mr. Rorem chosen 36 disparate texts, principally poems but additionally fragments from sermons, journals and autobiographies, and set them to music for soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone and piano, with solo numbers interspersed with ensembles of every kind.

The critic and historian of the voice Peter G. Davis, writing in New York journal, referred to as “Proof” “one of many musically richest, most exquisitely common, most voice-friendly collections of songs I’ve ever heard by any American composer.”

By this level, nonetheless, Mr. Rorem was not less than as well-known for his diaries as for his music. In 1966, he printed “The Paris Diary,” which stirred up appreciable controversy, largely due to its frank, first-person account of the writer’s intercourse life, which was each homosexual and many-partnered at a time when neither proclivity was thought-about a match topic for dialog.

The guide, mentioned New Yorker author Janet Flanner, was “worldly, clever, licentious, extremely indiscreet.”

“The Paris Diary” set the tone for the diaries that adopted over the subsequent 4 a long time. They mixed impressed cultural criticism and purple prose, set down in episodic, anecdotal method and tempered with an ironic wit.

Of Norwegian extraction, tall, blue-eyed, movie-star good-looking and gifted with monumental private appeal, Mr. Rorem was as soon as described by arts critic John Gruen as resembling “a mix of the debonair and the calculating.”

Mr. Rorem appeared to know all people within the cultural world — certainly, from 2000 to 2003, he served because the president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. But acquaintances may by no means ensure that they might not find yourself immortalized, for higher or worse, in one among Mr. Rorem’s books.

He wrote candidly and explicitly of his amorous affairs, together with what he referred to as his “4 Time journal covers” (John Cheever, Tennessee Williams, Leonard Bernstein and Noel Coward). He printed a memoir in 1993 entitled “Realizing When to Cease,” which prompted a remark that was reported anonymously within the London Impartial: “The difficulty with Ned is that he doesn’t.”

Ned Miller Rorem was born in Richmond, Ind., on Oct. 23, 1923, the son of C. Rufus Rorem, a medical economist whose analysis helped encourage Blue Cross and Blue Protect, and his spouse, the previous Gladys Miller, an antiwar activist within the Society of Buddies.

“We had been Quakers of the mental reasonably than the puritanical selection,” Mr. Rorem wrote in his second guide, “The New York Diary” (1967). All through his life, he would describe himself as a “Quaker atheist,” discovering no contradiction within the assertion.

He grew up in Chicago, the place he was launched to the music of Ravel and Debussy by his first piano trainer. On the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, he spent a yr learning with Gian Carlo Menotti, on the time America’s hottest opera composer.

Opera composer Gian Carlo Menotti dies at 95

Mr. Rorem graduated in 1946 from the Juilliard Faculty in New York, from which he additionally obtained a grasp’s diploma in 1948. To assist himself in New York, he served as an assistant and copyist for the composer and critic Virgil Thomson, who paid the younger man $20 every week and gave him classes in orchestration.

He additionally studied with composer Aaron Copland at what’s now generally known as the Tanglewood Music Middle in Lenox, Mass.

Mr. Rorem moved to Morocco in 1949 after which to Paris, the place he grew to become the protege and fixed companion of the Vicomtesse Marie-Laure de Noailles, a rich patron of the humanities; he lived along with her till 1957, after which he returned to New York, as he put it, “for publication and efficiency.”

He was at all times frank about his ambitions: “To turn out to be well-known, I’d signal any paper,” he mentioned, referring to the Faust legend.

By the point Mr. Rorem was in his mid-40s, he was an alcoholic, and a generally disputatious one. His early diaries are stuffed with self-pity and self-recrimination for his situation.

“The rationale to drink was to get drunk,” he advised the Homosexual & Lesbian Assessment Worldwide in 2010. “I used to be by no means not drunk. No person believes it, however I used to be actually very shy. Should you drink so much, you’re much less shy. As a result of I used to be cute, folks paid consideration to me, and so I drank greater than I ought to have. I stayed out later than I ought to have. Lastly, I mentioned to myself, anybody can get drunk, however solely I can write my music.”

He achieved a normal sobriety within the late Nineteen Sixties and, after occasional relapses, took his final drink in 1973.

Though Mr. Rorem at all times thought-about himself a “composer who additionally writes, not a author who additionally composes,” his diaries and different autobiographical works have reached a bigger normal viewers. They describe each his early hyperactive love life after which the lengthy interval of completely satisfied domesticity he shared with the organist James Holmes, who died in 1999.

These books are full of robust opinions — he disliked the music of Beethoven (who sounded “outmoded,” he mentioned), Berlioz and most of his avant-garde composer colleagues, from Pierre Boulez to Philip Glass (who wrote, he mentioned, in “a musical Esperanto”).

He took common potshots at authors as various as William S. Burroughs (“Hype, the masks of the ungifted, was by no means extra in proof than on the PBS portrait of [his] charmless ego”) and Truman Capote (who “offered his expertise for a multitude of pottage”). Mr. Rorem additionally appeared impelled to share together with his readers particulars they may plausibly have performed with out — the exact bodily location of his herpes outbreaks, for instance, and simply what number of journeys he made to the toilet each night time.

Regardless of such non-public musings, Mr. Rorem was an inspiring trainer who gave grasp lessons all through the nation and taught for a few years on the Curtis Institute, the place his college students included Pulitzer-winning composer Jennifer Higdon and opera composer Daron Hagen.

In a 2003 profile of Mr. Rorem, Hagen advised the New York Instances that he was as soon as at an artists’ retreat and wrote his former trainer a letter “that described a doomed love affair, author’s block, gossip and all types of nonsense. I bought this stunning little postcard again simply saying: ‘Pricey Daron: Colette mentioned nobody expects you to be completely satisfied. Simply get your work performed. Love, Ned.’ I put it up in my studio, and I bought again to work.”

Mr. Rorem stopped instructing in his late 70s to dedicate his time to his personal composition. In all, he wrote 10 operas of assorted lengths, giant our bodies of labor for piano and organ, chamber music of every kind and greater than 500 songs.

Along with his diaries and memoir, Mr. Rorem printed books of criticism, together with “Music From Inside Out” (1967), “Setting the Tone” (1983), “Settling the Rating” (1988) and “Different Leisure” (1996). He additionally printed a normal assortment of his letters, “Wings of Friendship” (2005), and a limited-edition gathering of his correspondence with the composer and novelist Paul Bowles, “Pricey Paul, Pricey Ned” (1997).

Mr. Rorem leaves no rapid survivors.

He advised the Hartford Courant in 1993 that he was shocked at receiving the Pulitzer as a result of he felt the “stuffy” music institution would reasonably punish him for his “depraved methods.”

“Nevertheless it kind of offers you a sure authority,” he added. “My identify is now at all times preceded by ‘Pulitzer Prize-winning composer … So if I die in a whorehouse, not less than the obit will say, ‘Pulitzer Prize-Profitable Composer Ned Rorem Dies in Whorehouse.’ ”

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