Award winning composer Ned Rorem died November 18, 2022 in his Manhattan home as a result of natural causes at the age of 99.
A very prolific writer and composer, Rorem wrote 16 books of prose that read more like a musical composition and had a musical catalog of 1,000 contemporary works that ranged from classical compositions to vocal music. Rorem spoke on his composing saying “write gracefully for the voice — that is, make the voice line as seen on paper have the arched flow which singers like to interpret.”
During his career, Rorem earned a Grammy Award with the Atlanta Symphony and was presented with the Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his composition “Air Music: Ten Etudes for Orchestra”.
Speaking on his own compositions, Rorem once said, “my 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.”
He was born the youngest of two children on October 23, 1923 in Richmond, Indiana, the son of Clarence Rufus Rorem – a man whose ideas led to the health insurance plans of Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The family were Quakers. At the age of 10, his piano teacher introduced young Ned to the music of Claude Debussey and Maurice Ravel, which Ned said, “changed my life forever”. He later attended the American Conservatory of Music, Northwestern University, the Curtis Institute, the Julliard School, and spent two summers studying with Aaron Copeland. While still in his teens, he gave a performance with the American Concerto Orchestra.
He was raised a Quaker. His collection of organ pieces “Quaker Reader” was based on Quaker texts.
During the 50’s he spent time in Paris and Morocco.
Rorem taught at the Universities of Buffalo, Utah, and the Curtis Institute.
Predeceased by his partner of 30 years organist and choir director James Holmes, Rorem is survived by nieces and nephews and grandnieces and nephews,
feature photo credit: Ned Rorem’s wesite