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Short Biography:
Words and music are inextricably linked for Ned Rorem. Time magazine has called him "the world's best composer of art songs," yet his musical and literary ventures extend far beyond this specialized field. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy, Rorem has composed three symphonies, four piano concertos, and an array of other orchestral works; music for numerous combinations of chamber forces; ten operas; choral works of every description; ballets and other music for the theater; and literally hundreds of songs and cycles. He is the author of sixteen books, including five volumes of diaries and collections of lectures and criticism.

At age seventeen, Rorem entered the Music School of Northwestern University, and two years later receiving a scholarship to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. He studied composition under Bernard Wagenaar at Juilliard, where he earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.

Ned Rorem has been the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship (1951), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1957), and an award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1968). He received the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award in 1971 for his book Critical Affairs, A Composer's Journal, in 1975 for The Final Diary, and in 1992 for an article on American opera in Opera News. His suite Air Music won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize in music. The Atlanta Symphony recording of the String Symphony, Sunday Morning, and Eagles received a Grammy Award for Outstanding Orchestral Recording in 1989. In 1998 he was chosen Composer of the Year by Musical America. He served as President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters from 2000-2003. In 2001 he was named a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Des Lettres by France for his contribution to the enrichment of the French cultural inheritance. In 2003 he was awarded the Gold Medal in Music, for an entire body of work, by the Academy of Arts and Letters; and also received ASCAP’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He has received numerous honorary degrees.

Among his many commissions for new works are those from the Ford Foundation (for Poems of Love and the Rain, 1962), the Lincoln Center Foundation (for Sun, 1965); the Koussevitzky Foundation (for Letters from Paris, 1966); the Atlanta Symphony (for the String Symphony, 1985); the Chicago Symphony (for Goodbye My Fancy, 1990); and from Carnegie Hall (for Spring Music, 1991). Rorem's most recent opera, Our Town, which he completed with librettist J.D. McClatchy, is a setting of the acclaimed Thorton Wilder play of the same name. It premiered at the Indiana University Jacob's School of Music in February 2006. Among the distinguished conductors who have performed his music are Bernstein, Masur, Mehta, Mitropoulos, Ormandy, Previn, Reiner, Slatkin, Steinberg, and Stokowski.

The Ned Rorem Archives are at the Library of Congress, Music Division, Washington DC.

Ned Rorem is published by Boosey & Hawkes.

— August 2019

This biography can be reproduced free of charge in concert programs with the following credit:
Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes.

Long Biography:
Words and music are inextricably linked for Ned Rorem. Time magazine has called him "the world's best composer of art songs," yet his musical and literary ventures extend far beyond this specialized field. Rorem has composed three symphonies, four piano concertos, and an array of other orchestral works; music for numerous combinations of chamber forces; ten operas; choral works of every description; ballets and other music for the theater; and literally hundreds of songs and cycles. He is the author of sixteen books, including five volumes of diaries and collections of lectures and criticism.

Ned Rorem is one of America's most honored composers. In addition to a Pulitzer Prize, awarded in 1976 for his suite Air Music, Rorem has been the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship (1951), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1957), and an award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1968). He is a three-time winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award; in 1998 he was chosen Composer of the Year by Musical America. The Atlanta Symphony recording of the String Symphony, Sunday Morning, and Eagles received a Grammy Award for Outstanding Orchestral Recording in 1989. He served as President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters from 2000-2003. In 2001 he was named a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Des Lettres by France for his contribution to the enrichment of the French cultural inheritance. In 2003 he was awarded the Gold Medal in Music, for an entire body of work, by the Academy of Arts and Letters; and also received ASCAP’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He has received numerous honorary degrees.

Among his many commissions for new works are those from the Ford Foundation (for Poems of Love and the Rain, 1962), the Lincoln Center Foundation (for Sun, 1965); the Koussevitzky Foundation (for Letters from Paris, 1966); the Atlanta Symphony (String Symphony, 1985); the Chicago Symphony (Goodbye My Fancy, 1990); Carnegie Hall (Spring Music, 1991); the New York Philharmonic (Concerto for English Horn and Orchestra, 1993); and the Philadelphia Orchestra (Flute Concerto, 2002). Among the distinguished conductors who have performed his music are Bernstein, Masur, Mehta, Mitropoulos, Ormandy, Previn, Reiner, Slatkin, Steinberg, and Stokowski.

Rorem is justly renowned for his art songs; his catalog includes more than 500 works in the medium. Evidence of Things Not Seen, his evening-length song cycle for four singers and piano, represents his magnum opus in the genre. The New York Festival of Song premiered the cycle at Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall in January 1998. New York magazine called Evidence of Things Not Seen "one of the musically richest, most exquisitely fashioned, most voice-friendly collections of songs I have ever heard by any American composer;" Chamber Music magazine deemed it "a masterpiece."

Rorem's most recent opera, Our Town, which he completed with librettist J.D. McClatchy, is a setting of the acclaimed Thorton Wilder play of the same name. It premiered at the Indiana University Jacob's School of Music in February 2006 and has enjoyed subsequent performances with the Lake George Opera and Aspen Music Theater Center, North Carolina School of the Arts, the Juilliard School, the Guildhall School of Music, and Festival Opera in Walnut Creek, CA.
In 2019, harpsichordist Jory Vinikour and the Chicago Philharmonic, conducted by Scott Speck, released the world-premiere recording of Rorem’s Concertino Da Camera, his 1946 work for harpsichord soloist and seven instruments, on Cedille Records.

His most recent publication, Facing the Night: A Diary (1999-2005) and Musical Writings, chronicles Rorem's dark journey after the death of 32 year companion, Jim Holmes. In his diary, Lies, (published by Counterpoint Press in 2000) Rorem said: "My music is a diary no less compromising than my prose. A diary nevertheless differs from a musical composition in that it depicts the moment, the writer's present mood which, were it inscribed an hour later, could emerge quite otherwise. I don't believe that composers notate their moods, they don't tell the music where to go - it leads them....Why do I write music? Because I want to hear it - it's simple as that. Others may have more talent, more sense of duty. But I compose just from necessity, and no one else is making what I need."

Rorem was born in Richmond, Indiana on October 23, 1923. As a child he moved to Chicago with his family; by the age of ten his piano teacher had introduced him to Debussy and Ravel, an experience which "changed my life forever," according to the composer. At seventeen he entered the Music School of Northwestern University, two years later receiving a scholarship to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. He studied composition under Bernard Wagenaar at Juilliard, taking his B.A. in 1946 and his M.A. degree (along with the $1,000 George Gershwin Memorial Prize in composition) in 1948. In New York he worked as Virgil Thomson's copyist in return for $20 a week and orchestration lessons. He studied on fellowship at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood in the summers of 1946 and 1947; in 1948 his song The Lordly Hudson was voted the best published song of that year by the Music Library Association.

In 1949 Rorem moved to France, and lived there until 1958. His years as a young composer among the leading figures of the artistic and social milieu of post-war Europe are absorbingly portrayed in The Paris Diary and The New York Diary, 1951–1961 (reissued by Da Capo, 1998). He currently lives in New York City.

The Ned Rorem Archives are at the Library of Congress, Music Division, Washington DC.

Ned Rorem is published by Boosey & Hawkes.

— August 2019

This biography can be reproduced free of charge in concert programs with the following credit:
Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes.

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