ROREM, NED (1923-2022)
ROREM, NED (1923 – 2022) American composer of contemporary classical music and writer. Best known for his art songs, which number over 500. Rorem was the leading American of his time writing in the genre. Although he wrote works for piano, orchestra and chamber ensemble and solo instruments, he considered all of his music vocal and song-like in nature. Rorem’s interest in song centered not around the human voice, but the setting of poetry, as he was deeply familiar with and fond of English literature. A writer himself, he kept—and later published—numerous diaries in which he spoke candidly of his exchanges and relationships with many cultural figures of America and France.
ANS – Autograph Note Signed, one side of small postcard, 12 February 1983. Brief note to Oscar White of Pach Brothers Photographers, NY. Reads: Dear Mr. White: Did your book, which was to include my photo (for which I signed a release in November 1980) ever appear. I’d love to see it, Sincerely, Ned R. Includes his handwritten address in NY and addressed the reverse side. Comes with a black and white image of Rorem.
Born in Richmond, Indiana, Rorem found an early interest in music, studying with Margaret Bonds and Leo Sowerby among others. He developed a strong enthusiasm for French music—particularly the Impressionist composers Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel—which remained throughout his life. After two years at Northwestern University, Rorem briefly studied at the Curtis Institute under Gian Carlo Menotti and Rosario Scalero, before settling at the Juilliard School with Bernard Wagenaar. Instruction from the composers Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson also proved important. After two hugely productive years in Morocco, Rorem was hosted by the arts patron Marie-Laure de Noailles in Paris, where he was influenced by the neoclassicist group Les Six, particularly Francis Poulenc and Darius Milhaud.
Rorem returned to America in around 1957, establishing himself as a prominent composer and receiving regular commissions. Frequently described as a neoromantic composer, he showed little interest in the emerging modernist and postmodern styles of his lifetime. Though he wrote in a generally tonal manner, Grove Music Online asserts that he did so with “striking variety, complexity and, often, intensity”. For the American Bicentennial, he worked on seven different commissions concurrently, among which was Air Music: Ten Etudes for Orchestra, which won a Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1976. Much of Rorem’s later years were spent with his lifelong partner James Holmes, between his apartment in New York and house in Nantucket. He wrote the large-scale song cycle Evidence of Things Not Seen to 36 texts by 24 writers, for the 1997 New York Festival of Song. It is considered by commentators and Rorem himself to be his magnum opus.