Pulitzer prize winning composer Ned Rorem was born in Indiana, raised in Chicago, educated at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and The Juilliard School in New York. He eventually found his way into the rarefied environment of Parisian art music, studying with Arthur Honegger and, through Honegger, becoming acquainted with well-known members of Les Six—Cocteau and Poulenc.
Rorem wrote at length about his piece, Bright Music, commissioned in 1987 by the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival to be performed by flutist Marya Martin, violinists Ida and Ani Kavafian, cellist Fred Sherry, and pianist André-Michel Schub. Following is Rorem’s summary of the work’s character.
“Fandango, for example, which is actually a rondo, is built from a ritornello of four adjacent notes, E-D-G-F. The net effect is meant to evoke a rat in an ashcan, commencing with spasmodic flurries, starts and stops, then gusting into a raucous mazurka. Pierrot is a meditation on Picasso’s early blue-period paintings, although this was decided ex post facto. Dance-Song-Dance is a scherzo based on a major triad, followed by a long lament based on the same triad in slow motion that returns to the scherzo, and whirls to a close. Another Dream is a series of solos by flute and strings that weave themselves slowly around the piano’s 48-measure ostinato in 9/8. Finally, Chopin is the wisp of an echo of that composer’s B-flat minor Piano Sonata…Sylvia Goldstein came up with the present title—apt, since as I grow older my music grows more optimistic.”
(From the program notes by Kathryn J Allwine Bacasmot)