Ned Rorem has been hailed as ‘the world’s best composer of art songs’ ,. Of course, Rorem is also known, and perhaps even better known, as a diarist. His first book, The Paris Diary(written in the early 1950s, but not published until 1966), was something of a succès de scandale, not only because he wryly recounts his associations with Cocteau, Gide, Poulenc, and other luminaries of French arts and letters, but because he wrote about his homosexual love affairs with such openness.
Rorem is, in fact, a marvellous writer, and it’s difficult to resist the temptation to compare his music and prose, for he uses words and notes with the same pithy elegance and expressive clarity. The writing often illuminates the music, too, and his Wildean aphorisms provide a useful overview of his aesthetic. New Rorem celebrates his 90th birthday today (October 23).