Ned Rorem

Biography

Born: October 23, 1923; Richmond, IN  
"Anyone can be drunk, anyone can be in love, anyone can waste time and weep, but only I can pen my songs in the remaining years or minutes," wrote Ned Rorem. Known both as a writer and a composer, Rorem is intriguing as both a musical figure and as a personality. He is self-described as a profoundly diatonic composer and his music language betrays the influence of his French impressionist idols Debussy and Ravel. Rorem's harmonic palette is Read more generally characterized by vertical extrapolations -- through modality, polymodality, and chordal alterations -- of an essentially tonal framework. Some works conduct innovative experiments in the song cycle form; Poems of Love and Rain, for example, sets eight different poems to music, then sets them again in reverse order to contrasting music. Many of his works juxtapose passages of harmonic and rhythmic complexity with moments of elegance and repose.

Rorem was the second of two children of Clarence Rufus Rorem, one of the founders of the Blue Cross, and Gladys Miller Rorem, a peace activist. The family soon moved to Chicago, where Rorem began studying piano and where he heard live such famous performers as Josef Hofmann, Sergey Rachmaninov, and the Ballets Russes. An early teacher exposed him to Debussy and the impressionists. Subsequent teachers taught him about American contemporary composers like Griffes and John Alden Carpenter, as well as the blues of Billie Holiday, and Rorem learned to notate the little tunes he had composed.

By the age of 16, Rorem had graduated from high school and already performed a concerto with the American Concerto Orchestra. He studied music theory with Leo Sowerby at the American Conservatory for a brief period before entering Northwestern University, where his time was largely spent absorbing a piano repertoire. In 1943, he accepted a scholarship from the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where he would study counterpoint with Rosario Scalero and musical-dramatic forms with Gian Carlo Menotti. After only a year there, Rorem moved to New York City, where he worked as Virgil Thomson's copyist in exchange for $20 a week plus composition lessons. Rorem also worked as rehearsal accompanist for Martha Graham and Eva Gauthier. Eventually Rorem entered Juilliard, where he completed bachelor's (1946) and master's (1948) degrees. He also studied with Aaron Copland during two summers at Tanglewood.

An award allowed Rorem to travel to France. What was intended to be a three-month visit ended up lasting 12 years. However, the first portion of his stay was largely spent in Morocco at the home of a friend, where he had the peace and quiet requisite for the 20 or so large-scale works he produced during this period. His work earned more honors, including the Lili Boulanger Award in 1950 and a Fulbright Fellowship the following year.

At this point, Rorem went on to Paris to study with Honegger. Through the influence of the Vicomtesse Marie-Laure de Noailles, he entered a social circle that included Jean Cocteau, Francis Poulenc, and Georges Auric. During this time, he also wrote several rather explicit diaries that were published a decade later to the shock and delight of many.

Rorem returned to New York in 1958 and during the next few decades held teaching positions at the University of Buffalo (1959-1960), the University of Utah (1965-1966), and the Curtis Institute (1980-1986). He still remained more of a composer than pedagogue, and is widely revered as the modern master of the art song genre. He received a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for Air Music, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and commissions from several major symphony orchestras. Read less

There are 134 Ned Rorem recordings available.

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Works

Ned Rorem


MOST POPULAR WORKS
No. 1. Words
No. 2. Poppies in July
No. 3. Hanging Man
No. 4. Poppies in October
No. 5. Lady Lazarus
1. Twilight: Free and Spacious - attacca
2. Toccata-Chaconne: Very Fast
3. Romance without Words: Hardly moving
4. Midnight: Slow
5. Toccata-Rondo: Very Fast
6. Dawn: Wistful
WORKS
A Secret Power
The World of Silence
There is a Spirit That Delights to Do No Evil
I. Lear
II. Katharine
III. Lear
IV. Titania and Oberon
V. Caliban
VI. Portia
VII. Why hear'st thou music sadly?
VIII. Remembrance of things past
IX. Iago and Othello
No. 1. A Mirror
No. 2. Nine to Three
No. 3. Marriage Measures
No. 4. 77 Notes for Rose
No. 5. 60 Notes for Judy
No. 6. Sarabande for Jim
No. 7. Epitaph for Jim
No. 8. 7 Answers
No. 9. Until Next Time
No. 1. Words
No. 2. Poppies in July
No. 3. Hanging Man
No. 4. Poppies in October
No. 5. Lady Lazarus
Matins (Nocturne)
Lauds (Sunrise)
Prime (6am)
Terce (Mid-morning)
Sext (Noon)
None (Mid-afternooon)
Vespers (Evensong)
Compline (Nightfall)
Fandango
Pierrot
Dance-Song-Dance
Another Dream
Chopin
I. Curtain-rise
II. There and Back
III. Three Queries, One Response
IV. Competative Chaos
V. A Single Tone, A Dozen Implications
VI. One Coin, Two Sides
VII. Valse Rappelee
VIII. Adrift
I. The Stone Tower
II. Leaving - Traveling - Hoping
III. Sirens
IV. Hymn
V. False Waltz
VI. Resume and Prayer
1. Twilight: Free and Spacious - attacca
2. Toccata-Chaconne: Very Fast
3. Romance without Words: Hardly moving
4. Midnight: Slow
5. Toccata-Rondo: Very Fast
6. Dawn: Wistful
I. Morning
II. Adam and Eve
III. Mazurka
IV. Staying on Alone
V. Their Accord
VI. Looking
VII. Conversation at Midnight
VIII. Flight
I. Capriccio
II. Fantasy
III. Mazurka
Part I: Beginnings: From Whence Cometh Song?
Part I: Beginnings: The Open Road
Part I: Beginnings: O Where Are You Going?
Part I: Beginnings: The Rainbow
Part I: Beginnings: How Do I Love Thee?
Part I: Beginnings: Life in a Love
Part I: Beginnings: Their Lonely Betters
Part I: Beginnings: His Beauty Sparkles
Part I: Beginnings: Boy With a Baseball Glove
Part I: Beginnings: A Glimpse
Part I: Beginnings: I Am He
Part I: Beginnings: Love Cannot Fill
Part I: Beginnings: The More Loving One
Part I: Beginnings: Hymn for Morning
Part II: Middles: I Saw a Mass
Part II: Middles: The Comfort of Friends
Part II: Middles: A Dead Statesman
Part II: Middles: The Candid Man
Part II: Middles: Comment on War
Part II: Middles: A Learned Man
Part II: Middles: Dear, Though the Night
Part II: Middles: Requiescat
Part II: Middles: Is My Team Ploughing?
Part II: Middles: As I Walked Out One Evening
Part II: Middles: The Sick Wife
Part II: Middles: Now is the Dreadful Midnight
Part II: Middles: Hymn for Evening
Fantasy
Toccata
No. 1. When all things were in quiet silence (Christmas)
No. 2. Before the morning star begotten (Epiphany)
No. 3. Lay up for yourselves (Ash Wednesday)
No. 4. Praise him who was crucified (Easter)
No. 5. God Is gone up (Ascension)
No. 6. Today the Holy Spirit appeared (Pentecost)
No. 7. Rejoice we all in the Lord (All Saints)
I. Rondo
II. Impromptu
III. Passacaglia
IV. Fanfare
V. Fugue
Piano Album I: Song Without Words
Piano Album I: Carol-Pastiche
Piano Album I: Serenade for Two Paws
Piano Album I: 19 Measures for Jim
Piano Album I: Golden Notes on Nearing Fifty
Piano Album I: Another Little Song Without Words
Piano Album I: This Serpentine Etude
Piano Album I: For a Perfect Friend
Piano Album I: Marriage Measures
Piano Album I: Snapshot of Jack
Piano Album I: For Jim
Piano Album I: A Little Waltz for Jim at Fifty-Five
Piano Album I: A Melody for Shirley
Piano Album I:
Piano Album I: On His Birthday
Piano Album I: Ah Jim...
Piano Album I: A Berceuse for Jim at Christmas
Piano Album I: A Christmas Card for Mary and Rosemary
Piano Album I: For A Perfect Sister
Piano Album I: A Sarabande for the Only Jim in the World
Piano Album I: 60 Notes for Judy
Piano Album I: 77 Notes for Rosemary
Piano Album I: 99 Notes for the Millennium
Piano Album I: For Ben
Piano Album I: Waiting to Get Well
Piano Album I: 1 + 1 = 3
Piano Album I: 40 Chords for Mark on April First
I. Driving from Paris
II. A Bend in the River
III. Bal Musette
IV. Vermouth
V. A Tense Discussion
VI. Making Up
VI. The Ride Back to Town
No. 1. To Tallis
No. 2. Why and Because
No. 3. The Flight to Egypt
No. 4. Entreat Me Not
No. 5. Cortege
No. 6. Touch and Go
No. 1. Lay
No. 2. Ode
No. 3. Sonnet I
No. 4. Sonnet II
No. 5. Sonnet
No. 6. Hymn of Peace
No. 1. Lullaby
No. 2. Far, Far Away
No. 3. Jeanie
No. 4. Full of Life Now
Minotaur
Child Holding a Dove
Acrobat on a Ball
Still Life
Seated Harlequin
Head of a Boy
Basket of Flowers
Self Portrait
Three Nudes
Death of Harlequin
I. Remembering Lake Michigan
II. The Wind Remains
III. Remembering Tomorrow
I. I ne're saw true beauty till this night
II. Queen Mab hath been with you
III. How silver-sweet sound lovers' tongues by night
IV. O serpent heart ...
V. ... sad hours seem long
VI. ... it was the nightingale
VII. Come weep with me
VIII. ... empty tigers
IX. ... never was a story of more woe
I. Like a motor
II. Slow
III. Lento
IV. Scherzando
6 Friends: For Marian
6 Friends: For Barbara
6 Friends: For Rosemary
6 Friends: For Mary
6 Friends: For Don
6 Friends: 75 Notes for Jerry
No. 1. Prelude
No. 2. Allegretto
No. 3. Bird Call
No. 4. The Diary
No. 5. Contest
No. 6. Invention for Battery
No. 7. In Memory of my Feelings
No. 8. Fugato
No. 9. Elegy
No. 10. Presto
No. 11. Epilogue
Maestoso
Andantino
Largo
Allegro
Broad, Moderate
Tranquillo
Allegro
Passacaglia
Allegro molto vivace
Largo
Andante
Allegro molto
I. Largo misterioso - Allegro
II. Largo
III. Andante
IV. Allegro molto
Water Music: Prologue (Variation 1)
The Tune: Calm and Sad
Variation 2
Variation 3
Variation 4
Variation 5
Variation 6
Variation 7
Variation 8
Variation 9
No. 1.
No. 2. The Mysterious Cat
No. 3. Who has seen the wind?
No. 4. A Pavane for the Nursery
No. 5. Counting-Out Rhyme
No. 6. The House on the Hill


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