Composer and writer Ned Rorem, who won a Pulitzer and a Grammy, dies at 99

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NEW YORK — Ned Rorem, the prolific Pulitzer- and Grammy prize-winning musician known for his vast output of compositions and for his barbed and sometimes scandalous prose, died Friday at 99.

The news was confirmed by a publicist for his longtime music publisher, Boosey & Hawkes, who said he died of natural causes at his home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

The handsome, energetic artist produced a thousand-work catalog ranging from symphonies and operas to solo instrumental, chamber and vocal music, in addition to 16 books. He also contributed to the score for the Al Pacino-starring film “Panic in Needle Park.”

Time magazine once called Rorem “the world’s best composer of art songs,” and he was notable for his hundreds of compositions for the solo human voice. The poet and librettist J.D. McClatchy, writing in The Paris Review, described him as “an untortured artist and dashing narcissist.”

American composer Ned Rorem appears at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia after a dress rehearsal for his "Evidence of Things Not Seen" on Oct. 23, 2003. Rorem, the prolific Pulitzer- and Grammy prize-winning musician known for his vast output of compositions and for his barbed and sometimes scandalous prose, died Friday at 99.

His music was mostly tonal, though very much modern, and Rorem didn’t hesitate to aim his printed words at other prominent contemporaries who espoused the dissonant avant-garde, like Pierre Boulez.

“If Russia had Stalin and Germany had Hitler, France still has Pierre Boulez,” Rorem once wrote.

He had a basic motto for songwriting: “Write gracefully for the voice — that is, make the voice line as seen on paper have the arched flow which singers like to interpret.”

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