From the Washington Post obituary of a great American composer who died today:
Mr. Rorem first gained fame when he was in his 20s as a composer of “art songs” — taut musical settings of poetry that were intended to be sung by classically trained vocalists, usually including an elaborate part for piano that was less accompaniment than full complement to the melody.
From the beginning, he had a clear understanding of what the human voice could and could not do. His melodies, although strenuous at times and moderately dissonant, were invariably linear, and the words usually came out in a natural, unforced rhythm, almost as enhanced speech, easy for a listener to follow.
By the time Mr. Rorem was 40, he had written more than 400 such songs, as well as three symphonies, several one-act operas and a great deal of chamber music, making him one of America’s most prolific composers. He won the Pulitzer Prize for composition in 1976 for “Air Music,” an orchestral suite.
By this point, however, Mr. Rorem was at least as well known for his diaries as for his music. In 1966, he published “The Paris Diary,” which stirred up considerable controversy, largely because of its frank, first-person account of the author’s sex life, which was both gay and many-partnered at a time when neither proclivity was considered a fit subject for conversation….
Read on here.